Sample of a school lunch produced by the Māla‘ai Kula program.

Across Hawai‘i, communities are implementing farm to school programs to provide nutritious, local food to students and staff while integrating agriculture education relevant to local culture, nutrition, and food safety. 

Kaua‘i Farm to School Hui

Led by Mālama Kaua‘i, the Kaua‘i Farm to School Hui is a new project that began in late 2018. Supported in part by SNAP-Ed funding, the group brings together stakeholders from across Kaua‘i to identify assets, challenges, and opportunities to improve low-income food access through school environments. Stakeholder members represent a variety of sectors and include representatives from the Hawai‘i Department of Education (HIDOE), public charter schools, community food banks and pantries, the agriculture industry, and more.

Since the group’s recent launch, their first key project — School Food Pantries, led by Hawai‘i Food Bank’s Kaua‘i Branch — is off to a great start with schools planning roll-outs this upcoming school year. Kaua‘i Farm to School Hui is also working with HIDOE School Food Services Branch to identify ways to bring the state’s ‘Aina Pono farm to school food program to Kaua‘i, among other projects.

Megan Fox (pictured right), Director of Mālama Kauai, celebrates with Kawaikini New Century Public Charter School staff in front of the new food distribution truck on the school’s campus.

Māla‘ai Kula: Kaua‘i’s First Farm to School Food Pilot

Mālama Kaua‘i began strategizing with Kaua‘i’s Hawaiian charter schools in 2014 who were seeking a solution to develop meal programs for their students. The partnership began with two schools, Ke Kula Ni‘ihau O Kekaha and Kawaikini New Century Public Charter School (NCPCS) in Lihu‘e.

The goal of the collaboration was to not only develop sustainable and culturally relevant meal programs for the schools’ students but to increase student access to ‘āina-based learning by connecting the meal programs to on-campus gardening/agriculture and nutrition education.

“It’s great to improve school food programs, but it was more critical to us to ensure that all schools have basic access to meal programs to begin with,” says Megan Fox, Mālama Kaua‘i’s Executive Director. “No parent should ever have to choose between their child receiving a culturally relevant education or getting fed at school.”

Together, partners aimed to build a stronger food system and economy by building community connections and to continue the cultural revolution to build on food sovereignty, self-sufficiency, and cultural self-determination through the school environments. This included prioritizing the purchase of meal ingredients grown in Hawai‘i, and especially from indigenous producers. Sourcing locally also ensures students are served culturally appropriate and nutritionally dense meals, by sourcing traditional foods like ‘uala (sweet potato), kalo (taro), and ‘ulu (breadfruit).

To begin the project, large school gardens were established at both schools, to both produce food on campus and to provide outdoor classrooms for hands-on, relevant learning; Kawaikini’s through a 5-week Gardening Certificate Class, and Ke Kula Ni‘ihau’s through grant-funded service projects led by community members. Healthy and culturally relevant school meal programs were also developed at both schools. The project’s final report will be released this summer.

Kaua‘i Farm to School Hui is a member of the statewide Farm to School Hui, a program of Hawai‘i Public Health Institute.

You can support Mālama Kauai by volunteering and/or donating.