By Julia Barzilai, Hawai‘i Youth Food Council Member

The Hawai‘i Youth Food Council distributed a School Food Survey during the Spring 2020 semester to collect data about high school students’ school food experiences. Survey responses were collected digitally (with the use of SurveyMonkey) throughout March and April of 2020. The survey was promoted by word of mouth, emails though the networks of partner organizations, by the teachers of Hawai‘i Youth Food Council Members, and on social media (primarily Instagram).

The Hawai‘i Youth Food Council received 91 responses to this survey. Survey entries were collected from 12 schools on four islands across the State of Hawai‘i. Many more students eat school lunch than school breakfast, and according to the students surveyed, chicken is the favorite lunch item, sloppy joe is the least favorite lunch item, fried rice is the favorite breakfast item, and sausage is the least favorite breakfast item.

The two most important aspects of food to students are that it tastes good and includes fresh fruits and vegetables. Most students would like to see locally-grown bananas, sweet potatoes, and papayas incorporated into school meals. If students could change anything about school lunch, they would like to see more meal-type options, healthier food, and more time to eat.

Most students who took this survey did not know if their school has a school garden or agricultural program, and less than half of the students who took this survey are involved in their school’s garden or agriculture program. Almost 80% of students would like to be more involved in their school’s garden or agriculture program, but half of those students say that taking part in their school’s garden or agriculture program is inconvenient. Lastly, lettuce is the most common vegetable grown in school gardens.

The Hawai‘i Youth Food Council looks forward to continuing our exploration and improvement of students’ school food experience, and to working with partners to strengthen Hawai‘i’s local, sustainable food systems.