Categorized | Education

Federal grant supports Hawaii Farm to School programs


The Kohala Center recently received a federal Farm to School grant to support the increase of locally produced foods for Hawaii schools and to increase support for school gardens and farms statewide through curriculum development that connects core standards with garden-based education.

“Every year, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) awards the Farm to School grants to help schools connect with local producers and teach children where their food comes from,” said Deborah Kane, National Director of the USDA Farm to School Program. “These funds support the efforts of the Kohala Center to strengthen the capacity and impact of the Hawaii Farm to School and School Garden Hui (HFSSGH), a statewide network of farm to school stakeholders.”

Currently 60 schools statewide participate in a morning snack program. The grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) will support programs to expand the number of schools participating in the FFVP program and increase the program’s purchasing of locally grown fruits and vegetables, as well as to build relationships between school purchasers, local distributors and farmers.

The grant also addresses development of initiatives to incorporate food, nutrition, and agricultural education into K–8 school curricula.

Additionally it supports efforts to build coalitions that strengthen the capacity and impact of HFSSGH to advocate for and implement both procurement and curriculum development.

“Across the nation there is a movement to increase local or regionally produced foods in school cafeterias,” said Chris Kanazawa, state director of the USDA Rural Development Hawaii office. “The USDA Farm to School program emphasizes food, farming, and nutrition, and integrates principles of healthy eating habits through school cafeteria offerings, hands-on learning activities such as school gardening, farm visits, culinary classes, and the support of the local agriculture economies.

“Here in Hawaii, as island communities, supporting the local growers and producers is essential if we want to ensure the reliability and quality of fresh foods. If we are to ‘feed for the future,’ the involvement of local, state, and federal agency programs and funding are key participants to ensuring nutritious meals for our children,” Kanazawa said. “USDA can be a tremendous funding resource to the state through its grant and loan programs. Assistance to farmers and ranchers, food processors and distributors, development of Farm to School programs, and nutrition learning experiences are examples of activities that may benefit from USDA funding. Having a robust Farm to School program for the State of Hawaii will create the connection between the classroom, cafeteria, and garden, and support good health, nutrition, agriculture, and the local economy.”

The current grant provides funding for gathering metrics for the FFVP by working with the Department of Education’s Office of Child Nutrition and creating a report of best practices for participating schools.

Meetings will also be conducted with local farmers and charter schools to foster connections and relationships, and a group of 14 teachers/leaders from Hawaii will work together this summer to connect garden activities with Common Core Standards, Next Generation Science Standards and Hawaii Content and Performance Standards 3/Science.

In addition to increasing its capacity, HFSSGH will expand its state outreach.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said, “Congratulations to The Kohala Center on its USDA Farm to School grant. Programs like these grow the next generation of farmers and introduce students and their families to the benefits of fresh, locally grown foods from farms and ranches in the region.”

Partnering in this effort with The Kohala Center is Office of Hawaii Child Nutrition Program (OHCNP), Kona Pacific Public Charter School, the Hawaii Farm to School & School Garden Hui (HFSSGH), and participating charter and public schools statewide.

Sen. Russell Ruderman, chairman of the Hawaii Senate Committee on Agriculture said, “I’m pleased that the USDA Farm to School Grant will support The Kohala Center’s work to increase procurement of locally grown fruits and vegetables in the morning snack program of 16 public and charter schools on Hawaii Island, tie standards to garden curriculum and support statewide Farm to School efforts.”

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