Lanakila Meals on Wheels program first started in 1971 as a lunch wagon in A‘ala Park. Known first as the Honolulu Nutrition Program — which was established under a contract with the City and County of Honolulu — the lunch wagon was more than a place to pick up a hot meal. It was a gathering of O‘ahu’s seniors to socialize and connect with their neighbors, friends and family members. The first event of 459 participants was so successful that the wagon continued; filling küpuna bellies as well as helping to aid the need of human interaction.

“For many of the participants, the nutrition site was a second home where they can socialize with their peers, learn new skills and feel worthwhile by volunteering their services to help other people by serving their meals, conducting activities, housekeeping and more,” said Laurie Hara, Lanakila Pacific’s marketing and communications manager.

Lanakila Meals on Wheels relies on its volunteers who help deliver hot meals to as many as 3,000 recipients. Note: This photo was taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Birthed from Lanakila Pacific — which was established in 1939 by a special education teacher named Violet Kam whose mission was to help people recover from tuberculosis — Lanakila Meals on Wheels has evolved 50 years later into a nearly 200 volunteer program, serving over 3,000 seniors hot meals directly to their homes. To celebrate this year’s 50th anniversary, Lanakila Meals on Wheels will be hosting a live virtual bingo event on Saturday, Oct. 2 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. The public can pick up free bingo cards at participating Kahala Mall stores then log on the day of the event to to retrieve a link to participate in the livestream.

Considering the fact that this article will be published a day before the event, and not many readers will get the chance to participate, Hara would like to emphasize her gratitude to all those who’ve made Lanakila Meals on Wheels’ birthday possible.

“We really couldn’t have made it through the past 50 years — or even the last 18 months — without the unwavering support of our donors, volunteers and the entire community,” said Hara, who would also like to thank Kalaha Mall and KSSK radio for their support in the event. “So to say thank you, we wanted to invite everyone to celebrate this accomplishment.”

As the pandemic has brought on additional challenges of much needed support, Lanakila Meals on Wheels was able to adapt and find other ways to support O‘ahu’s seniors such as The Green Bag, Kupuna Tech and Kupuna Connect program. The Green Bag is a delivery service of fresh local fruits and vegetables from local Hawai‘i farmers. Kupuna Tech conducts classes that empower seniors with basic digital skills and Kupuna Connect is a place where seniors can virtually gather to talk story and connect with one another. All of these programs and efforts that succeeded due to the pandemic has continued to bring the community together and the reason why Rona Yagi Fukumoto, President and CEO of Lanakila Pacific, is honored to represent an organization that continually revamps itself to help the current times.

Lanakila Meals on Wheels began in 1971 as the Honolulu Nutrition Program with this lunch wagon in A‘ala Park through the Older American’s Act. (Photos courtesy of Lanakila Meals on Wheels)

“While senior hunger and isolation have been ongoing concerns for more than five decades, the COVID-19 pandemic considerably intensified the issues,” said Rona Yagi Fukumoto, president and CEO of Lanakila Pacific, in a recent press release. “Our Lanakila Meals on Wheels program continues to evolve and grow to meet emerging needs because of dedicated volunteers, donors and staff who never waver from our mission — even during difficult times. We are honored that so many have joined in our work to ensure people do not go hungry.”

Though a lot has changed for the better in half a century, Lanakila Meals on Wheels’ program has been consistent in its success due to its amazing volunteers. If you or anyone is able to help, Lanakila Meals on Wheels is currently in need of volunteer drivers. To sign up, go to 


John Tateishi’s book “Redress: The Inside Story of the Successful Campaign for Japanese American Reparations” (Photo courtesy of

On Wednesday, Oct. 20 at 2 p.m. (HST), University of Southern California’s Shinso Ito Center will present a second virtual event series and book-club gathering, which will discuss past, current and future endeavors of Black and Japanese American reparations. This virtual meetup will discuss the Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress’ book “NCRR: The Grassroots Struggle for Japanese American Redress and Reparations” and John Tateishi’s “Redress: The Inside Story of the Successful Campaign for Japanese American Reparations.”

Tateishi, the former National Redress Director of the Japanese American Citizens League, was involved in the movement to obtain redress and reparations for Japanese Americans and challenged the Bush administration’s policies that targeted Arab and Muslim communities after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In a virtual discussion forum on April 21, 2021 with Charles Henry, professor emeritus of African American Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, Tateishi and Henry discussed the politics of racial reparations and how it matters and intersects with both Japanese and Black Americans.

 Tateishi, a Sansei Japanese American and a Manzanar internment camp survivor, emphasized how reparations not only did justice to those Nisei who’ve suffered through it but also helped move a community forward in education and healing.

“For me, I saw the transformation as the Nisei were talking as they testified and what it did to us as a community and what it did for the country,” said Tateishi, referring to the nationwide hearings that allowed hundreds to testify from Aug. 4-6, 1981 to share their stories of life in the internment camps and the pain and suffering that many of them endured. Tateishi further emphasized that America’s current reparations that’s needed today exist for many African Americans whose ancestors were chained to a life of slavery. 

In his book “Redress: The Inside Story of the Successful Campaign for Japanese American Reparations,” Tateishi writes that the Nisei generation embraced traditional American values and encouraged their families to move on. The Sansei generation, however, grew up during the Civil Rights Movement and saw the internment camps as another form of racial oppression that needed to be voiced and heard. Unlike history lessons about slavery that has been and continues to be taught in American classrooms today, mentions of the Japanese internment camps were always spoken about as a way to “protect Japanese Americans” from the war’s aftermath. The sudden uprootment, losing of family homes, possessions, and careers, were never discussed in history books as well as among Nisei veterans who continued to show their loyalty to the United States by silencing their suffrage. Since the passing of the Civil Liberties Act in 1988, which granted $20,000 to living U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry who were incarcerated during World War II, Tateishi continues his fight for social justice and is an advocate for African American reparations. There’s hope on the horizon as a current bill entitled HR 40, which passed the House Judiciary Committee 25-17 this past April, looks to “identify (1) the role of the federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, (2) forms of discrimination in the public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and (3) lingering negative effects of slavery on living African Americans and society.” 

“We know about slavery [and] some of the misery of being Black in America but we don’t really understand it for those of us who are not part of that,” continued Tateishi in his virtual discussion. “Until we do something as a nation to rectify the sins of slavery, we’re not going to see much of a change. My hope is that we make some kind of movement, however it’s done. I think it’s really important for the good of the nation. Both Blacks and Whites and everyone.”

The hope for the upcoming virtual event series and book club is to understand reparations on a deeper level. That it’s more than just compensation for past injustices; that it helps to move forward the healing process and provide — according to author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates in his June 2014 essay for the Atlantic — “a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal … the end of yelling ‘patriotism’ while waving a Confederate flag … a revolution of the American consciousness, a reconciling of our self-image as the great democratizer with the facts of our history.”

To be a part of the conversation and book club, go to to RSVP. You can also get to the link by going to Densho Project’s Instagram page. For more information, go to USC’s Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture events section.   


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here