How can we drive collaboration and action around food sustainability on Hawaiʻi Island? This year’s third annual Hawaiʻi Island Community Food Summit could not have come at a better time. The summit took place throughout the month of November, culminating on November 17 with the first of many sessions to take Hawaiʻi County towards a food system action plan.

This year, the Summit focused on increasing residents’ exposure to local foods, providing opportunities for networking and engagement with fellow food system-minded community members, exposing attendees to ways they can personally help the food system, and building capacity within the community to curate a food system action plan. Hawaiʻi Public Health Institute’s Hawaiʻi Island Healthy Eating + Active Living Coordinators and Hawaiʻi County’s Food Access Coordinator worked tirelessly to bring the community together for multiple sessions over four weeks and will continue scheduling community sessions into 2021.

Guest speakers and presenters at the 2020 Food Summit included Madison Frisbie and Sarah Newcomb (Hawaiʻi Youth Food Council), Kyla Arruda (DOH Food Safety Specialist), Dennis Flemming (Hawaiʻi Agriculture Partnership), Pualilia Hanamaikai (Native Hawaiian Cultural Practitioner), Bella Hughes (Shaka Tea), Sharon Hurd (DOA Market Development Branch), Kū Kahakalau (Kū-A-Kanaka), Zachary Larsen (Hilo Food Hub), Nicole Milne (The Kohala Center), Maddy Smith (Barefoot Chocolatini), Denise Salmeron (USDA, Rural Development), Dana Shapiro (Hawaiʻi ‘Ulu Producers Cooperative), Jane Tai (Hawaiʻi Master Food Preservers), and Hawaiʻi Public Health Institute’s own Lisa DeSantis.

Attendees of November 17’s meeting discussed community food resiliency with a concentration on three main areas: community composting, gleaning, and community education. This and future session themes and topics were based on feedback from the Hawaiʻi Island Food System Network Survey. Participants were led through the discussion and priority selection process by their fellow community members using a process called “empowerment evaluation.” As part of the Summit, interested community members were offered empowerment evaluation training, with the option to facilitate the food action plan discussion sessions.

The Community Food Resiliency session was the first of many to come on the long but necessary road to a food systems action plan for Hawaiʻi Island. The ultimate goals of the food system action plan creation process are to: increase network connections and understanding of the food systems work being done on Hawaiʻi Island; conduct specific sessions and individual interviews that will inform the food system action plan; create a shared, digital plan that clearly indicates who in the community is working on what and how members can support. The plan is meant to reflect what is currently being done and how progress is being measured and shared over time. Through this plan, community organizations and individuals alike will share their projects, progress, and challenges, and come together to create a stronger, more resilient Hawaiʻi Island. For more information, to learn how to get involved, and to watch this year’s recorded presentations, please visit hifoodalliance.org.