This post originally appeared in the August 20, 2023 edition of Eater Today, a newsletter bringing you the freshest news from the food world every day, with a special addition on Sundays. Subscribe now.
Last week, Maui burned. You may have heard about the wildfires that devastated parts of Maui, about the fire that engulfed Lahaina, the deadliest in U.S. history in more than a century. I live in Honolulu, on Oʻahu, and I woke up Wednesday morning to the initial news — but it was only as each hour passed and each subsequent report and message from Maui delivered accounts, each worse than the last, that I began to realize the full extent of the destruction. That Lahaina was gone. “Lahaina is gone, Lahaina is gone, Lahaina is gone,” we repeated to each other, to ourselves, in grief and shock, through the days and nights to come.
I can tell you that more than 100 people have died, with the number likely to increase as the search through the rubble continues. That overnight we lost the historic town that was once the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom. That reading the stories of the more than 900 people and families on this list asking for help breaks my heart.
As quickly as Lahaina burned, people in Hawai‘i rose up to provide food and shelter, even hauling in supplies from neighboring islands using their own boats. Chefs who lost their restaurants or homes — and in some cases, both — rallied to cook and feed displaced people. Chef Hui, a local network of food industry workers that during the pandemic organized efforts and established systems statewide to feed up to 100,000 people in vulnerable communities a week, immediately mobilized. It partnered with World Central Kitchen to organize, cook, and distribute meals.
But as many chefs I talked to said, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and it will take a lot of time and resources before Maui recovers. If you can, consider donating. Here are a few trusted funds and organizations:
Lahaina was also home to many restaurants and food businesses. Some that were destroyed have set up fundraising campaigns to help their employees who have lost their homes. You can find a list of them at this Honolulu Magazine post.
A few women, born and raised in Hawai‘i, put together a Google spreadsheet of the individuals and families that were directly affected by the fires and whom you can aid directly. While the organizers behind Help Maui Rise do their best to vet all of the submissions before adding them to the list, there is always the possibility of human error, so use your best judgment when donating. But even if you prefer to contribute through other means, I encourage you to look at the list — it gives a sense of the scope of devastation.