When the Hawai‘i State Legislature recessed indefinitely on March 17, 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis, members of the Hawai‘i Farm to School Hui Legislation & Policy Committee proactively began working to transition the 2020 Policy Agenda for food systems education into a proposal to support Hawai‘i’s economic, social, and environmental recovery and resiliency.

The result is a plan to significantly amplify existing food systems education and workforce development initiatives for the regeneration of sustainable community food systems, food security, food self-sufficiency, and total wellbeing for all people and places of Hawai‘i. The proposal focuses on substantially increasing youth leadership and student interest in college and careers in agriculture and food systems through expansion of support for farm to school, Hawai‘i FFA (Future Farmers of America), Hawai‘i Youth Food Council, and the Aloha ‘Āina Educational Pathway in Sustainable Food Systems from preschool through PhD levels. These efforts are also part of a broader food systems transformation initiative called the ‘Ike ʻAi Consortium on Sustainable Food Systems.

As a member of Hawai‘i Green Growth (HGG) United Nations Local2030 Hub, Hawai‘i Public Health Institute participated in HGG’s Network COVID-19 Recovery Survey. Over 315 responses to this survey were received from across six sectors statewide, identifying over 200 green growth projects, 150 education and job training opportunities, and diverse policy priorities. Importantly, a focus on local food systems and agriculture was identified by respondents as the top priority for integration into Hawaiʻi’s economic recovery. Survey results, including the green growth project and education list, are available on the Aloha+ Dashboard.

The time is now to shift our state and counties’ focus toward ensuring food security for all of Hawaii’s people, and to significantly increasing community food self-sufficiency. Involving Hawai‘i’s youth of all ages through food systems education is the key to our long term sustainability. Please contact Lydi Bernal, Hawai‘i Farm to School Hui Coordinator, at lydi@hiphi.org with any questions. 

Support is needed now to develop and strengthen a “keiki to kūpuna” continuum of food systems education and workforce development opportunities in order to ensure Hawai‘i’s long-term sustainability.