Friendship and a desire to encourage children and families dealing with the challenges of stay-at-home orders due to the Coronavirus pandemic inspired colleagues from Ceeds of Peace, Mālama Maunalua, and Blue Zones Project to launch the “Seed & Serve Hawai‘i” project this past spring.

From May through July 2020 the project distributed over 750 free vegetable seed packets to youth across all islands, based on the vision of gardening as a clear path toward growing sustainable, peaceful, and healthier communities. By engaging Hawaii’s youth in growing their own food, they would be inspired to follow healthier lifestyles and give back to their families and communities. Simultaneously, the project has planted “seeds” to inspire a sustainable future for Hawaii’s food systems. 

The process of distributing seed packets began with an interest survey that was distributed through the partners’ listservs and social media accounts. Project participants chose from four seed options, locally-sourced from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Seed Lab, including Mānoa lettuce, grape tomato, Hawaiian chili pepper, and eggplant. Once interest was established and the “orders” were in, the collaborators held socially-distanced seed packing parties, enjoying time together as they worked for positive change. Along with the seeds, participants received instructions for planting and care through an educational flyer and follow-up emails.

Feedback from the project has been overwhelmingly positive. This fall, HIPHI and the Hawai‘i Farm to School Hui conducted an evaluation to determine the project’s impact. Through a follow-up survey, parents have expressed gratitude for the program and how it has been a positive experience for their children’s learning in these ever-changing times:

“Mahalo for putting this program together. What a great way to start the conversation with the next generation about sustainable living and the importance of agriculture in Hawaiʻi and around the world.”

“I love this program! Showing kids today how to grow food for tomorrow is key. This was the first time we used soil from our compost. The plants are dark green and can tell they have different soil than our other plants. Thank you so much for this opportunity to show my son getting dirty is more important than the silly video games he plays!”

“Thank you so much for this learning opportunity for our keiki, we truly need more programs like this for our community!”

“My daughter was so excited to receive her seeds and wanted to plant them right away. She looked forward to taking care of them and was so happy when they sprouted and continued to grow. She was so amazed to see the full cycle of her seeds and is now interested in growing a garden and wants to plant all types of vegetables and fruits! She currently has a few papaya plants that she takes care of and can’t wait to plant more different types of seeds. Her interest in gardening all sparked from receiving her tomato seeds! Thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity!”

From the success and momentum of Seed & Serve Hawai‘i, another program has begun to blossom. SEEDS of Honua is a youth-led seed saving and sharing initiative that launched in September 2020. Created and led by 15-year old Tyler Levine and supported by partner organizations, SEEDS of Honua has already been awarded three grants for funding to grow their seed saving community in Hawai‘i. The launch of SEEDS of Honua began with a Seed Sprint through which over 1,200 youth participants signed up to receive and plant free vegetable and flower seeds. This program has continued to sprout connections throughout the seed saving community and is actively engaging more young leaders to expand the vision. 

By engaging youth to take action for their homes and communities, Seed & Serve Hawai‘i and SEEDS of Honua are planting inspiration and cultivating progress toward a sustainable, peaceful, and healthier future for our world. Click HERE for a summary of the Seed & Serve Hawaiʻi project evaluation.

For more information on the Hawai‘i Farm to School Hui please visit:  https://www.hiphi.org/farmtoschool