The Hawai‘i State Legislature continues to show strong support to ensure the expansion and long-term success of Hawaii’s farm to school efforts through the introduction of at least twelve relevant bills and resolutions during the 2021 legislative session.

A driving theme of this year’s legislative efforts is to set specific and time-bound targets for local food procurement, not only for the Hawai‘i Department of Education, or HIDOE (HB767, SB1251, SB1311) but for all of Hawaii’s state departments (HB817), an effort known as “farm to state.” Other bills that have advanced through the legislature this session encourage the development of school gardens on HIDOE campuses (SB463), require HIDOE to conduct a comprehensive cost analysis of its school food programs (HB443), and require HIDOE to utilize the geographic preference for local food procurement, which is allowed and encouraged by USDA (HB702).

One bill to watch this year is HB767, which formally establishes a holistic farm to school program and coordinator position within HIDOE — great news for Hawaii’s students, schools, and local food systems! As originally introduced, however, this bill was simultaneously set to remove the farm to school program and coordinator positions from the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture (HDOA), which were established by the Hawai‘i State Legislature and Governor David Ige via Act 218 in 2015.

The Hawai‘i Farm to School Hui advocates that HDOA must continue to play a key supporting role in Hawaii’s farm to state and farm to school efforts, along with HIDOE. In other states with successful farm to school programs, typically both their departments of agriculture and education, as well as their land grant university extension agencies, are actively involved; both Oregon and Mississippi are examples to name a few. In many instances including Hawai‘i, state departments of health also play a critical role in supporting farm to school efforts.

To lend your voice in support of farm to school legislation, be sure to create an account at www.capitol.hawaii.gov, through which all testimony must be submitted. Find your legislators and reach out to them by email or phone to express your strong support for farm to school and to encourage theirs! Increase youth engagement in policy advocacy by checking out our Teachers’ Guide to Raising Student Voice at the Hawai‘i State Legislature.

Farm to school programs involve school gardens, education, and school food improvements through local procurement to enhance the well-being of students, families, schools, and community food systems.