HONOLULU — Acting Governor Shan Tsutsui proclaimed the month of October “Farm to School Month.” Stakeholders from the community, including the Ulupono Initiative, The Kohala Center, Jack Johnson’s Kokua Hawaii Foundation, Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) and Department of Agriculture attended the proclamation presentation held this morning at the State Capitol.
Farm to School Month in Hawai’i coincides with National Farm to School Month, designated by Congress in 2010, to demonstrate the growing importance of farm to school programs as a means to improve child nutrition, encourage diverse careers in agriculture, support local economies, and educate children about the origins of food.
“It’s important that we celebrate Farm to School month to raise awareness about the movement and school gardening programs, which empowers children and their families to make informed food choices while strengthening the local economy and connecting keiki to the aina,” said Acting Governor Tsutsui, who is spearheading the Farm to School Initiative, in collaboration with HIDOE and Department of Agriculture.
“The Hawaii Farm to School program provides an important connection between local farms and Hawaii’s keiki,” said Scott Enright, chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture. “This program not only helps to strengthen the local agricultural community, but also creates an opportunity to educate our youth about agriculture, nutrition and food sustainability.”
The Farm to School Initiative aims to systematically increase State purchasing of local food for our school menus as well as connect our keiki with their food through the use of products from the local agricultural community. With Hawaii importing about 85 percent of our food, the Farm to School Initiative is one way the State is working towards becoming food sustainable.
“The Department is excited in finding new ways to increase the amount of local produce on the menus of our schools,” Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said. “While the schools as a whole currently purchase a higher percentage of local food than the average home, we would like to deliver more fresh fruits, vegetables and meats to our students’ plates.”
HIDOE has 256 public schools and its School Food Services Branch feeds approximately 100,000 students and staff each day. The Farm to School Initiative also seeks to address the supply and demand issues surrounding the purchasing of local food for our school cafeterias.
In April, the Farm to School Initiative gathered information from farmers and ranchers as well as hosted a mixer to inform them on how to become a qualified vendor with the State. Those events, including the invitation for bids, culminate with the Farm to School Initiative Pilot Project, which is expected to begin in 2017.
“The Kohala Center has been involved in Farm to School for about a decade and we’re so thrilled that this pilot project is at this place of being ready to launch because of the potential of Farm to School to not only impact our agricultural community, but also the positive impact it can have on our school children from a nutritious standpoint and education standpoint as well,” said Anna-Lisa Okoye, Chief Operating Officer of The Kohala Center. “We’re so excited for this next step that we’re going to get into the schools and make some changes on how schools cook and source food and teach kids about nutrition.”
Across the nation, farm to school programs are reconnecting students to a better understanding of the food system and where their food comes from. Farm to school programs introduce students to healthier eating habits and help them become familiar with new vegetables and fruits that they and their families will then be more willing to incorporate into their own diets.