By Brannagan Mukaisu
In late September, as part of the effort to expand its “Meals & Mahalo” program statewide, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) delivered 150 meals to frontline healthcare workers at Hilo Medical Center as an act of aloha and appreciation. Earlier in the month, OHA delivered 250 lunches to Queen’s North Hawaiʻi Community Hospital as a part of its statewide initiative to express gratitude to the healthcare workers most impacted by the recent surge in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.
The meals delivered on Hawaiʻi Island, on Oʻahu, and those still being coordinated, will total over 2,000 delivered meals to Hawaiʻi’s frontline healthcare workers across the pae ʻāina during a time when hospitals report being at capacity with relief nurses coming in to Hawaiʻi to provide support.
“With the maxed capacity in our ICUs, and the lack of resources including staffing, we understand our healthcare workers across the state, especially those in rural communities like Hawaiʻi Island, are beyond exhausted,’’ said OHA CEO/Ka Pouhana Dr. Sylvia Hussey. “So we want to express our utmost aloha nui for the work they are doing by sharing food, as it is one of the most powerful ways in Hawaiian culture to show gratitude.”
OHA coordinated with Liquid Life, a small business founded as an organic holistic health cafe and juice bar and a recipient of an OHA Mālama Loan that supports Native Hawaiian-owned businesses, to deliver “Meals & Mahalo” to doctors, nurses, certified nursing assistants, and other hospital staff who continue to confront the ravages of COVID-19 that have been exacerbated since July by the virulent Delta variant.
“Hilo Medical Center is very appreciative of the Meals and Mahalo donation from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. This nourishing show of support for our staff gives us a much-needed boost to continue our focus on caring for our COVID patients in this hard-hitting delta surge,” said Elena Cabatu, director of Marketing and Public & Legislative Affairs, Hilo Medical Center.
“Our hospital team is working extra hard during these difficult times and a special meal is a greatly appreciated break to their busy day. It means even more to them that the meal is coming from the community that they are working so hard to care for and keep safe,” said Lynn Scully, marketing and communications manager at Queen’s North Hawaiʻi Community Hospital.
As of Oct. 13, 2021, Hawaiʻi Island reported a total of 105 deaths, with Native Hawaiians ranking in the top three groups most affected by COVID-19 mortalities. According to the Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency, 78% of Hawaiʻi’s population above the age of 12 is fully vaccinated. Still, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) groups have the lowest rates of vaccination.
“We need a kākou effort to protect everyone in our community, our unvaccinated keiki, kūpuna, vulnerable populations with pre-existing conditions, and our overworked healthcare providers,” Hussey said. “Mālama kekahi i kekahi means to take care of one another, so let’s all come together to do just that by continuing to stay home, washing hands, social distancing, and getting vaccinated.”
To find a vaccination site near you, go to hawaiicovid19.com/vaccine/.
Brannagan Mukaisu was born and raised on Oʻahu and is a proud alumna of the island’s public school system. She is a communications specialist for Solutions Pacific, LLC. She has a B.A. in broadcast journalism from Columbia College Chicago and was a news reporter in Northern California working on stories about homeless youth and the housing crisis. She is passionate about projects that help make a difference in the community.