In May, the Maui County Healthy Eating + Active Living (HEAL) Coalition and Blue Zones Project Central Maui hosted Inaugural Action Planning meetings for the Maui Nui Food Alliance. The two days were facilitated by Dr. Maggie Adamek, who has worked in communities across Hawai‘i, the mainland, and Indian Country to strengthen food sovereignty, create effective collaborations that lead to food systems change, and build healthier communities.

The first day was held at the King Kamehameha Golf Course in Waikapu where over 90 diverse stakeholders convened to discuss concerns with Maui County’s current food system. The packed room was full of many food system experts, including farmers, ranchers, healthcare workers, and public health professionals. The meeting opened with remarks from Laks Abraham from Blue Zones Project Central Maui and Lauren Loor from the HEAL and was followed by a powerful speech by the keynote speaker Representative Lynn DeCoite. A third-generation homestead farmer, Representative DeCoite represents House District 13 and owns and operates L&R Farms Enterprises, LLC with her husband where they raise the famous Molokai purple sweet potato. She encouraged everyone in the room to be open to collaboration because that is the key to finding solutions for the problems within our food system.

Dr. Adamek facilitation with such a large diverse group paid dividends. The day was filled with great conversation over shared concerns and possible solutions, wonderful locally-sourced food, and plenty of inspiration. The first day resulted in a common vision of the future food system for Maui Nui — one that is sustainable, regenerative and economic. We had started laying the foundation for a strong and well-built food alliance

Day two was held at the HMSA center in Kahului with 30 of the stakeholders discussing the next steps for the Food Alliance. Dr. Adamek helped outline the conversations and work that had been done the day before and flesh out the immediate actions that needed to be taken. Experts in the room were nominated for a short-term working group that would assist with the creation of a steering committee. They would help reach out to others who could add value to the steering committee. Day two wrapped up with a short-term work plan, the start of a long-range strategic plan, and a motivation to change the future. We hope for a future where residents of Maui County have access to healthy local sustainable food and the plague of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, has been eradicated.

The Maui Nui Food Alliance has held two working group meetings and nominated a steering committee of 16 members who will finalize the draft strategic plan and move forward into action. We will be convening the steering committee in the Fall of 2019 and hope to convene the whole Maui Nui Food Alliance annually. Our goal is to create a food system that provides access to healthy and local foods, economic success, and lessens the percentage of food that is imported to our county and state gradually over time.

For more information on the HEAL Coalition for Maui, Molokai and Lānaʻi, please contact the HEAL Community Coordinator Lauren Loor at lauren@hiphi.org.