LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- There are families who are a paycheck away from food insecurity and for those on a fixed income, choosing between rent and a healthy meal can become a way of life. Helping those in need has become a life's mission for Setsuko Nakama.
Monday through Friday, Nakama arrives at Union Station on Metrolink from Riverside. And after that two-hour train ride, she walks 30 minutes through downtown to meet volunteers with Little Tokyo Senior Nutrition Services at Union Church of Los Angeles. From there, they will deliver healthy meals to seniors.
"It's crucial. A lot of these senior citizens are limited income or no income for that matter," explains Darlene Kuba, the president of Little Tokyo Senior Nutrition Services.
The fresh meals provided must be delivered within two hours to insure safety, so the flurry of activity isn't chaos but purposeful. Forty to 45 volunteers deliver meals on foot throughout Little Tokyo and Setsuko packs a car for deliveries to East L.A. and Boyle Heights, where it's estimated one in five older adults live below the poverty line.
"We feed so many seniors, 130 every day, but we have a waiting list. If we could get more funding. we could feed more seniors," Kuba points out.
The funding for the program comes from the L.A. City Department of Aging, and while the majority of the participants are Asian, Little Tokyo Senior Nutrition Services is available to anyone.
A donation of about $2 per meal is suggested, but in some cases it's free. But Nakama says it's not just food they are providing.
"Our program - we are just not providing the meals. We are providing social services and friendship and activity and education," Nakama said.
That human interaction shines light into the darkness of what might be a lonely life.
"Oftentimes these seniors are left alone. They're lonely and in isolation," explains Kuba.
For 47 years Little Tokyo Senior Nutrition Services has been caring for the elderly in a small slice of Los Angeles and Kuba says it's an effort that should be repeated in every community.
"I think it's needed everywhere. You know, today's society? We don't take care of our seniors as we should," Kuba said.
If you'd like to donate to the Little Tokyo Nutrition Services, visit: www.ltsns.org