HONOLULU — The Farm to School Initiative is seeking qualified farmers and vendors to submit bids to deliver fresh fruit and vegetables to various Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) schools statewide. Local farmers are encouraged to submit their bids by July 13. The invitation for bids (IFB) can be found at http://spo3.hawaii.gov/notices/notices/ifb-d17-005.
Spearheaded by Lt. Governor Shan Tsutsui, the HIDOE and Department of Agriculture are working collaboratively on the Initiative. The goal is to address the supply and demand issues surrounding the purchasing of local food for our school cafeterias. The Initiative also 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 we are working towards becoming food sustainable in our state,” said Lt. Governor Tsutsui. “While supporting local farmers and our economy, we are also feeding our students with locally-grown fresh fruit and vegetables.”
HIDOE has 256 public schools and its School Food Services Branch feeds approximately 100,000 students and staff each day.
“We’ve made it a priority to purchase local produce, however, our options have been limited,” said Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “We are hopeful that this initiative will allow for more locally-based products to be used in our schools’ food services while keeping costs reasonable.”
“We encourage local farmers to participate in this program,” said Scott Enright, Chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture. “One of the challenges farmers face is the uncertainty of supply and demand and this program will help farmers plan and grow their crops with the knowledge that there will be a market for their produce. In addition, keiki will be able to grow up with an appreciation of locally grown fruits and vegetables.”
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.
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 IFB, culminates with the Farm to School Initiative Pilot Project, which is expected to begin in 2017.