The “Meat and Greet” program was supposed to offer Lahaina’s homebound a nutritious taste of the famous Abramo Chop House and a little companionship during the day. While the program launched with lots of fanfare and excitement about the unique Abramo mini grills, a number of complaints and mishaps have put the future of the program in question. Following a recent house fire, the third since its inception, the service has been temporarily halted awaiting a state review of safety practices.
There are thousands of food delivery programs serving millions across the country, but the Meat and Greet program promised to offer clients a unique experience by grilling their own meals. The service would deliver a specially made grill along with gel-flame heating cans, and a packaged meal to those unable to leave the home. For many, the program seemed like a perfect opportunity to enjoy a kind of meal unavailable in most home delivery programs, but many say the service is dangerous.
Critics contend that giving grills to people that don’t have the ability to leave the house is irresponsible. In addition, they say the heating cans are the cause of the three fires reported. Although nobody has been seriously hurt so far, the last fire destroyed the entire living room of a client’s home before it was extinguished. The State has ordered a stop to the program while a safety investigation is completed.
Despite the concerns, Brandi Essen, operations manager for Abramo Holdings LLC., says the program is perfectly safe and a great option for those who want to “spice up” their food options while being homebound. “Our goal was to offer our friends and neighbors, who have found themselves forced to stay at home due to age or illness, something other than the usual styrofoam cup of soup and stale sandwich wrapped in plastic. Our trained staff deliver the specially made Abramo mini-grills and a week’s worth of fuel on the first visit. We are careful to thoroughly go over all safety protocols and safe food handling practices. Staff never leaves until they are sure our clients have all the necessary tools to assemble their grills. After the initial setup, clients will experience the best meals we have to offer daily. We provide a variety of our artisanal Abramo sausages, juicy burgers from Bob’s Perfect Burger Blend with choice of cheese, pork ribs with 4 delicious sauce options, and a pack of our homemade cracklins or our famous foie gras chips with every visit. There may be other food options for the elderly and sick, but when it comes to taste, we’re all alone.”
Despite Essen’s assurances a growing number of people have called into question the nutritional quality of the meals. The son of one of the program’s clients points out that the meals his mother received “…contained 110% of her recommended daily caloric intake, most of that from fat, and 150% of her daily sodium. They include packets of vitamins so they meet the minimum nutritional guidelines, it’s irresponsible. I’m surprised they don’t include cigars.”
Betsy Kaukau from the Hawaii State Department of Health says the fires and the nutritional concerns are just the tip of the iceberg. “I was shocked when I started looking into the program,” she says. “These fuel canisters have not been approved for direct use with food. In fact we’ve had numerous reports of fuel leaking onto meals, making them dangerous to eat. For many of these people, this is the only meal they will get in a day, and it is unreasonable to expect them to be able to properly cook it themselves. Many have become sick from improper ventilation and undercooked pork products. I believe the fires may be one of the safest aspects of the Meat and Greet service.”
Founder Bob Abramo vehemently denies that the program is unsafe, and says that the halt in service is a gross government overreach. “Since the dawn of time people have felt the need to apply fire to meat. We just want to help people who might have thought that they’d never get a chance to BBQ at home again, a chance to taste flame charred goodness.” He adds, “I keep hearing that our fuel is dangerous, or our food is dangerous, but lots of things can be dangerous. I don’t think that we should put these people in little pens for protection. These were free range people, and we feel this is a great way to help them have a taste of freedom again. I care about our customers breakfast, lunch, and dinner, not just around election time like these career politicians and government employees. The truth is we may be serving some their last meal, and I think they deserve something meaty and juicy. I believe the elderly of Lahaina have been aged to perfection and deserve the joy only fire and choice cuts of meat can provide.”