How This Hawaiian Food Festival Is Giving Back to the Island Community


Hawaii Food and Wine Festival Helps Guests Learn About Oceans, Land and Sustainability

Seascape from Kuoloa Ranch — Photo by Marla Ciimini

Pulling weeds in the hot sun has never been one of my favorite activities, but it’s exactly what I did last fall on Oahu, Hawaii.Specifically, we’re “clearing the land,” as our guide explained to us during the vast expanse of immersive volunteering Gurney Ranch4,000 acres of private nature reserve.

This educational (and very fun!) experience is made by Hawaii Food and Wine FestivalSo my husband and I went on an early morning hike with a small group of chefs, food professionals and participants, where we learned about taro growing while collaborating on redirecting a creek and replanting it in a beautiful natural setting seedling. surroundings. All in all, it was an unforgettable learning experience with breathtaking views – proving to be an inspiring and motivating way to start your day.

Combining culinary activities with immersive volunteer experiences, the Hawaiian Food and Wine Festival (HFWF) inspires festival guests to become more involved in sustainability and learn to care for the ocean and the land. By actively engaging with the community, the organization shows that it represents more than just elegant culinary events hosted by world-class chefs.

Now in its 12th year, HFWF was founded by CEO Denise Yamaguchi with award-winning chefs Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong. This powerful organization’s annual event attracts chefs and foodies from Hawaii and around the world – and more importantly, keeps giving back to the islands.

HFWF CEO Denise Yamaguchi and HFWF co-founder Roy Yamaguchi with volunteers at Taro at Papahana Kualoa

HFWF CEO Denise Yamaguchi and HFWF co-founding chef Roy Yamaguchi with volunteers at the Taro Field in Papahana Kualoa — Photo courtesy of Hawaii Food and Wine Festival, Makaha Studios

As the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival has grown, the organization has identified ways to connect chefs, dining experts and festival attendees directly with the local food culture. In 2021, festival organizers have created several new educational and culinary volunteer activities as tourists return to Hawaii more consciously during the pandemic. They focus on the importance of protecting land and oceans, as well as giving back to society by connecting culinary talent with the promotion of diverse agriculture and natural environments.

“Essentially, our festival is all about sustainability,” says Dennis Yamaguchi. “Hawaiians used to be 100% sustainable, so it’s important that we tell this story from a cultural and historical perspective. Over the years, we’ve seen how festivals and their participants can make a positive difference in helping these organizations. This Sensitivity is rooted in the same values ​​that we have always stood for – promoting our diverse agricultural abundance, our exceptional culinary flair and our stunning natural environment.

Chief Alan Wong drives away invasive species from Mālama Loko Ea

Chef Alan Wong brings invasive species out of Mālama Loko Ea — Photo courtesy of Hawaii Food and Wine Festival, Makaha Studios

For 2021, the festival’s Mālama ‘Āina theme fits perfectly with the Hawaii Tourism Board’s own event, “Mālama Hawai’i,” which debuted last year. It encourages visitors to actively learn about sustainability and participate in volunteer experiences to preserve and enhance the island. Components of these activities across the island include planting new seedlings, removing invasive plant species, running fish pond projects, harvesting crops, learning to plant, cleaning beaches, and more.

Jay Talwar, Marketing Director of U.S. Hawaii Tourism, explained: “Our Mālama Hawaiʻi program is designed to appeal to travelers who care about continuing the beauty and culture of the places they visit. It’s a cause that resonates with our island and our industry, We are proud of partners like Hawaii Food and Wine Festival who have incorporated volunteer travel opportunities into their programs.

Some of the unique experiences created by the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival last fall involved many organizations, including Papahana Koala and Paepae or Heeia, two long-term nonprofit partners of HFWF. Both are education-focused farm organizations based in Hawaii with numerous programs.

Here are some examples of these experiences:

  • Partner with Papahana Kuaola, an entity that connects communities to the natural environment. This experience includes preparing, weeding and harvesting taro.
  • Join Paepae o He’eia, a group dedicated to restoring Oahu’s ancient He’eia fish ponds. Volunteers learn about pond ecosystems, redistribute rocks and corals, remove invasive mangroves and limu (algae), and help rebuild fish pond walls.
  • volunteer Kurena Coral, an organization dedicated to restoring coral reefs around Oahu. Participants learn to tag corals for conservation while learning about the importance of reef restoration.

Marla Cimini (author) and Chris Grova volunteer at Kuoloa Ranch

Marla Cimini (author) and Chris Grova volunteer at Kuoloa Ranch — Photo by Marla Cimini

Yamaguchi explained: “It’s been a pleasure to work with so many others this year who have done an amazing job promoting and promoting food, conservation and environmental sustainability on all islands. We are very much in touch with our leaders, participants and interests. Stakeholders together have gained a lot through volunteering at lo’i (water taro fields) and banks. Our partner chefs are the bloodline of the festival and we appreciate their willingness to learn more about our island. With people like Mālama ‘Āina First-hand experience, they become food sustainability advocates and our Hawaii ambassadors.

She added, “Mālama ‘Āina has been a great success and showcases our core values ​​of sustainability, education and responsibility. In 2022, the festival plans to continue volunteering. The foundation for what we hope to achieve last year to promote a greater appreciation of Hawaii’s natural resources by educating residents and visitors about our collective responsibility to care for the planet.

In the fall of 2022, the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival will offer many exciting new volunteer experiences. Customers can register in advance. The festival is scheduled for late October and early November on three Hawaiian islands: Maui, Hawaii and Oahu. Be sure to check the festival website for updates.

Taro fields at Hoʻokuaʻāina

Taro fields in Hoʻokuaʻāina — Photo courtesy of Makaha Studios, Hawaii Food and Wine Festival

Interested in volunteering? There are many hotels in Hawaii that offer volunteer programs to educate guests about sustainability, including:

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