Hawaii Farm to School Initiative

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Spearheaded by Lt. Governor Shan Tsutsui, the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE), the Hawaii Department of Agriculture and The Kohala Center are working collaboratively on the Farm to School Initiative.  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.

The goal of the Farm to School Initiative is to address the supply and demand issues surrounding the purchasing of local food for our State 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 the aina through their food, using products from the local agricultural community.

The Project began in the Kohala School Complex, located on Hawaii Island. As an ideal "learning and menu creating lab," a single kitchen serves all three schools in the complex — Kohala Elementary, Kohala Intermediate and Kohala High Schools.  As a rural community, they are committed to increasing their local food production.  After implementation, the Project team will conduct an evaluation of successes, opportunities and obstacles to guide larger HIDOE implementation of successful Farm to School strategies (kitchen skills, procurement strategies, community connections, articulated policy, new menus, etc.).  Successful Farm to School strategies learned in the Project will continue in the Project kitchen through HIDOE staff implementation, while rolling the next phase into a larger complex, to ultimately scale successful Farm to School strategies into HIDOE's statewide operations.

A transformation in the way food is served to school children is taking place at the Kohala Complex.  Hawaii is joining the Farm to School movement happening nationwide through this initiative.   Menus are being co-created by Chef Greg Christian and Kohala Cafeteria Manager Priscilla Galan and her chefs. The new menus focus on fresher, scratch-cooked versions of local favorites such kalua pig with cabbage and kid-friendly foods such as pizza.  Children participated in taste tests to let the cooks know what they like and don't like to eat.    The Hawaii Farm to School Initiative's Pilot Project, which kicked off last year at the DOE's Kohala Complex on the Big Island is well underway.  We'd like to tell the public about what's happening at Kohala and about the preparations and planning for the phase two of the Pilot Project.

Launched during the 2016-2017 school year as a pilot initiative, Phase I began in the Hawaii Department of Education's Kohala Complex on the island of Hawaii, a centralized kitchen that serves K-12 schools in surrounding rural communities.  For the 2017-2018 school year, Phase I is expanding to at least two new schools on Hawaii island The pilot program at the Kohala Complex is being used as a learning laboratory to test new foods and preparation techniques that increase the use of fresh, locally sourced ingredients in school breakfast, lunches, and snacks.

Best practices from Hawaii island schools will guide the rollout of the next phase on the island of Maui. The program is anticipated to roll out statewide in December 2019.

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