Growing state-level support for farm to school

“Staying inside the classroom isn’t probably the best for your health,” observed a 4th grade student and active school gardener from Waikīkī Elementary School as he spoke to over one hundred attendees at the Farm to School Legislative Breakfast on January 25, 2018.

Attendees enjoyed a medley of fresh, locally-grown fruits. Photo by Hawai‘i Farm to School Hui.

Organized by the Hawai‘i Farm to School Hui (a program of the Hawai‘i Public Health Institute), the event was held at the Hawai‘i State Capitol to raise awareness about this year’s farm to school legislative initiatives.

Farm to school programs involve education, school gardens, and school food improvements to enhance the wellbeing of students, families, schools, and community food systems. Great progress has been made and much work remains to be done toward achieving the full benefits of farm to school for Hawai‘i.

This year, state lawmakers and advocates are closer than ever to expanding much-needed state support for farm to school through the following key measures:

During the Farm to School Legislative Breakfast event, legislator cosponsors expressed their strong support for these initiatives. Senator Michelle Kidani stated that “I would love to see us get [farm to school] in every school, and then move on to our prison population, because this helps not just in getting our students healthy, it helps our economy.”

Waikīkī Elementary School 4th grade teacher Julian Walstrom and three of his students spoke at the 2018 Farm to School Legislative Breakfast about the value of their thriving school garden program and the importance of outdoor learning and fresh foods. Photo by the Hawai‘i Department of Education.

Senator Mike Gabbard addressed the need for increased funding for the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture, which “is only getting less than four tenths of one percent of the state budget” with a mandate of “doubling our state’s local food production by the year 2020.” He also emphasized the importance of the educational component of farm to school and of “having more school gardens, living laboratories where our young people get their hands in the soil and learn how to grow their own food.”

Representative Richard Creagan shared, “I think we want to have a whole spectrum, from the school gardens, to home gardens, to small farms, to the bigger farms we need as well,” adding that “the most inspiring part of this whole thing is kids. That’s the future.”

Senator Kidani acknowledged that “we have a way to go…but I am encouraged that both the senate president [Senator Ronald Kouchi] in his Opening Day Remarks and the Governor [David Ige] in his State of State Address expressed enthusiastic support,” with specific mentions of farm to school.

You can voice your strong support too by signing up for HIPHI action alerts today and submitting testimony in support of this year’s farm to school bills!