A Hawaii restaurant puts a Thanksgiving tradition on hold but finds a new way to give

Pandemic forces okazuya food distribution for homeless to go on hiatus

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the past decade, Todd Matsumoto and his family have delivered warm Thanksgiving meals to the homeless in Kalihi, Chinatown and downtown.

But this year, the owner of Matsumoto’s Okazuya & Restaurant was forced to put the meals-on-wheels on hiatus because he didn’t want to expose family members to the coronavirus.

“We’re kind of sad that we can’t go out and see the people and give the food and see ... the appreciation they feel that we’re giving them a hot turkey dinner or lunch,” said Matsumoto.

But Matsumoto and his family still managed to give back this Thanksgiving by donating deserts to the IHS homeless shelter.

“Instead of risking my son, my kids and us getting sick because the disease is out there, we donated a bunch of pies to the (Institute for Human Services),” he said.

These are hard times not just for the homeless but also for small business operators like Matsumoto.

He was forced to close temporarily in March when the first shutdown order came.

He later reopened for takeout service but when the second shutdown was issued in May, he decided to sit things out for the next six months.

But next week, he plans to finally reopen.

“It’s pretty frustrating — when to open, when to close. Hopefully, this time when we reopen Dec. 1, we can stay open for the duration,” he said.

Come this time next year, he also hopes the virus -- and the public’s fears -- will be eradicated.

“Next year Thanksgiving, we’ll be out there passing out food again. I believe our tradition will never stop,” Matsumoto said.

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