Study identifies areas to help Hawaii's 'Aina Pono program expand
Six schools are part of Hawaii's 'Aina Pono farm-to-school pilot program.
Six schools are part of Hawaii's 'Aina Pono farm-to-school pilot program. It's set-up to provide fresh meat and produce to about 4,000 keiki. Coordinators of the program say there are no plans to slow down, now that they're looking at modifications to get more schools, students, and farmers involved.
One fan of the program is Mililani High School graduate, Alyssa Yamada-Barretto. She still savors memories of the beef and chicken she ate in the cafeteria.
"Not to mention the fresh fruits, the vegetables and bread which is so much better than the frozen and canned foods that we typically would eat," she said.
This is food raised and harvested from local farms and actually consumed by students.
"Our students are now eating lunch because they enjoy it," said Yamada-Barretto.
'Aina Pono sprouted in 2015 under then-Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui. Before, students were served canned foods shipped to Hawaii. Now wasted lunch food is down by more than 30%.
The problem is getting more schools to buy in and more farmers to sign on.
Thursday afternoon, local farmers and producers showcased their products at the State Capital hoping to entice the Department of Education. The showcase followed a presentation from a team of researchers looking for ways to improve and advance the program.
Research found farmers want the increase if they can land long-term contracts with schools showing SUPPORT for local agriculture. Thanks to a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture there's incentive for the 'Aina Pono program to grow.
"We now have the ability to be able to continue the agricultural industry by having them supply, starting with schools, but supply the entire state," said Lieutenant Governor Doug Chin.
Mililani High School is one of three Oahu schools in the program. The other three are located on the Big Island. Lt. Gov. Chin said the state is thinking more institutions, not just schools, but prisons and hospitals as well.