OHA Delivers “Meals & Mahalo” to Frontline Health Care Workers


In an effort to show aloha and appreciation to some of our dedicated health care workers who are working on the frontlines of Hawaiʻi’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) has been making ‘ai pono lunch deliveries to local hospitals.

It started in late August when 226 Hawaiian food plates were delivered to staff at Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center’s Emergency Room and three COVID-19 units. Deliveries continued in September with 100 ʻai pono lunches delivered to frontline health care workers at Straub Medical Center.

OHA is also coordinating “Meals & Mahalo” deliveries with Queen’s Medical Center West Oʻahu, Waiʻanae Coast Comprehensive Health Center and Waimānalo Health Center, all of whom serve communities with a high concentration of Native Hawaiians, to express gratitude. A total of 1,000 meals are expected to be distributed to Oʻahu hospitals in this first phase of the program, with plans underway to distribute another 1,000 meals to neighbor island hospitals.

“We hear that frontline workers are exhausted and that morale is low, so we wanted to show some much deserved aloha to our healthcare heroes for the work they are doing to serve our community,” said OHA Board Chair Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey. “The sharing of food is one of the most ‘mana-ful’ ways for us to express gratitude in the Hawaiian culture.”

OHA teamed up with Lunalilo Home, a Native Hawaiian trust, to deliver the “Meals & Mahalo” boxes that went to hospital aides, nurses and physicians who have confronted the ravages of COVID for more than a year and are experiencing a shortage of staff and capacity with the latest surge of the pandemic.

“We are thankful for OHA and its recognition of our dedicated employees at Straub Medical Center,” said Dawn M. Dunbar, senior vice president of Philanthropy at Hawaiʻi Pacific Health. “These thoughtful acts of kindness encourage our staff and make them feel supported by the community. Straub’s medical teams continue to work to help and heal as many people as they can through the pandemic.”

“Our nurses are working many shifts in a row, sometimes sleeping in their cars so they can get needed rest in between shifts. They display so much heart and a passion to keep giving and caring for our patients,” said Rayne Soriano, regional director for Nursing Professional Practice and Operations who received the Hawaiian food plates at Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center. “When we get these signs of connection with the community we are blessed to serve, it honors us and keeps us coming back every day. Hopefully these meals will fill not only their stomachs with sustenance, but touch their hearts as well, uplifting their spirits so they can continue to care for the community.”

As of Aug. 30, 2021, the top three zip codes in the state with the highest case counts for the previous 14 days were 96792 (Nānākuli/Waiʻanae) with 861 cases, and 96706 (Kapolei/ʻEwa) and 96797 (Waipahū) with 774 and 574 cases, respectively. Over the course of the pandemic, the total number of cases for these areas was 11,821.

The west side of Oʻahu has one of the highest concentrations of Native Hawaiians in the state. Overall, roughly 62% of Hawaiʻi is fully vaccinated, but Native Hawaiians have among the lowest rates with some estimates showing the rate at about 40%.

“We need a kākou mindset to beat COVID – that means thinking of protecting not just ourselves, but our entire community, our unvaccinated keiki, our kūpuna, our vulnerable populations with pre-existing conditions, and our overworked healthcare workers,” Lindsey said. “Perhaps the most critical way community members can share their aloha for frontline medical workers is to stay safe by staying home, washing hands, social distancing, and – of course – getting vaccinated.”

To find a vaccination site near you, go to hawaiicovid19.com/vaccine/. Other community organizations interested in supporting this effort should contact Solutions Pacific at team@sphawaii.com.