Let’s Talk Food: Holidays are for giving

  • Courtesy photo Food is readied for service as part of the Refettorio Gastromotiva initiative in Rio de Janeiro.

You know you raised your children correctly when, as adults, they give back to their community and the world.

Son Dean, while the chef instructor at Big Island Substance Abuse Council, cooked once a month for several years a balanced dinner for the needy and homeless. Needless to say, he misses preparing those meals. Watching them enjoy the meal and being told they look forward to his cooking gave Dean much satisfaction.


Son Neil, while vacationing in Rio de Janeiro last week, arranged with a program coordinator of an initiative there to cook in its kitchen with staff. He cooked the meal together with students helping the program, and the volunteers arrived before the dinner to hand out the plates. These volunteers left right after service. Neil worked with the students, cooking and plating all 180 dinners, all out at the same time, then cleaned up.

One-third of all food produced in the world is wasted, and more than 100 million people go hungry everyday and live in constant food insecurity. (Let these numbers sink in for a while!)

Refettorio Gastromotiva is an initiative brought to Brazil by chefs David Hertz and Massimo Bottura of Food for the Soul and journalist Ale Forbes with the mission to fight food waste, malnutrition and social exclusion.

Launched in August 2016 during the Rio Olympics, Refettorio Gastromotiva became a legacy for the city. The leftover and surplus ingredients from the Olympic Village started this nonprofit, which now serves a three-course lunch at a price to subsidize dinners to feed the needy.

Refettorio Gastromotiva’s goal is to recuperate food as well as promote the restoration of the dignity of the people.

With the 5 tons of food wasted each month, 5,400 dishes are made per month.

Working with the theme of “For a world with no waste. For a world with more inclusion,” “more than 80 chefs and sous chefs from Brazil and around the world came to cook during the first phase of implementation of Refettorio Gastromotiva. They shared meals and knowledge to fight waste and strengthen the Global Movement of #SocialGastronomy. Each week, new chefs are invited to share their spices.”

In Brazil, the Refettono Gastromotiva works directly with people in socially vulnerable situations. After listening to more than 700 testimonies from volunteers who passed through, the organizers were even more convinced that serving brings as much dignity as being served.

Volunteers are asked “to live the experience of one night serving and hosting the ones that are more in need.” So Neil signed up to feed the “vulnerable populations” with a dignified three-course meal. He worked six hours and served:

• Starter: Brown rice salad with eggplant, black-eyed peas and olive oil.

• Main: Chicken shepherd’s pie.

• Dessert: Syrup bananas, Doce de Keith (caramel), banana and vegan coconut and lemongrass “ice cream.”

• • •

I can see how this recipe for Chicken shepherd’s pie from “Taste of Home” would work well for leftover mashed potatoes and vegetables.

Chicken Shepherd’s Pie

Serves: 6

2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, (6 ounces each), cubed

4 tablespoons butter, divided

1 pouch (3.6 ounces) roasted garlic mashed potatoes

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 1/4 cups 2% milk

1 teaspoon rubbed sage

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup shredded Swiss cheese, divided

1 cup fresh sugar snap peas, trimmed and chopped

1/2 cup frozen corn

In a small skillet, cook chicken in 1 tablespoon butter until no longer pink; set aside and keep warm. Prepare mashed potatoes according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt remaining butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth. Gradually add milk; stir in seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened.

Remove from heat, stir in 3/4 cup Swiss cheese until melted. Add peas, corn and chicken. Transfer to a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with mashed potatoes; sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until heated through. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

• • •

So I got really excited about how a program such as Refettorio Gastromotiva would work here to feed our vulnerable populations and still give them dignity with a nice meal. I ran into a lot of roadblocks.

I asked Randy Kurohara, who is involved with the Salvation Army in Hilo, who asked Danielle and she said they cannot accept outdated foods because of “higher U.S. health standards.”

I asked someone at a store that sold canned goods and they do not donate any of those foods to the Food Bank, but instead get a credit from the vendors.

I have not checked where these cans end up yet, but I am not giving up trying to find a solution to having one-third of our food being thrown away or wasted!

Please email me if you have a way to prevent food waste without breaking the laws we have in place.

Foodie bites


The Hawaii Community Culinary Arts program “would like to send out a heartfelt mahalo to all of our customers and those who patronize the culinary program.” The program’s last day of service for this semester was Dec. 5. It will reopen in January 2020.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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