Laupāhoehoe Community Public Charter School has recently
received a USDA Farm-to-School Planning Grant. According to Jenny Bach, Farm-to-School
Planning Director, the grant will be used to draft “a detailed implementation plan
to create a robust farm-to-school program. “
Laupāhoehoe Community Public Charter School has a jump on
the process, though! They already have a trial organic garden on the property
and are testing out crops. The plan is
to convert a portion of the 33-acre campus to a large-scale organic farm. The on-campus farm will grow 2-3 crops for
the cafeteria, with an emphasis on foods that the students enjoy—carrots,
cherry tomatoes and watermelon. They are growing fast…the school plans on
having crops in the cafeteria by May. Locally grown taro, breadfruit,
sweetpotato, beef and local fish will be added to the menu later.
The goals of the Farm-to-School planning grant are to:
· Improve the nutritional health and well being of
children. Including using local and seasonal organic food from organic farms
and the school garden.
· Support experiential nutritional and educational
· Procure local foods from small and medium sized
farms, thereby increasing farm income by facilitating farmers’ access to school
and other local markets.
· Develop a sustained commitment to a farm-to-school
program in the community.
The project must abide by the USDA Food and Nutrition
Service guidelines, so part of the planning grant is to work out the specifics
of how to incorporate organic, locally grown foods into the school lunch
program. Among other things, that may mean developing the food safety certification
infrastructure necessary for the school and local farms to utilize.
Currently, the school has some of the classes and students
participating in gardening and cooking classes, but the goal is to integrate
the garden program in to the school curriculum through project-based learning.
“We don’t want to import so much food from the mainland when
we have such an amazing variety of food in Hamakua,” says Jenny Bach, “We want
to support local, organic farmers and improve the eating habits and health of
the children by teaching them about seasonal foods.”
Jenny sees the biggest challenge to the program being the school
budget for food. “Local and organic can sometimes cost more than the mass
produced, pre-packaged food cafeterias are accustomed to buying,” say Bach.
Once the team at Laupāhoehoe Public Charter School gets it
all figured out, they will be sharing the “how-to” and lessons learned with
other schools that want to implement a comprehensive farm-to-school program.
"There is a growing awareness and interest in
communities across Hawai‘i to reconnect children to the land and the true
source of their food and health,” says Nancy Redfeather, Program Coordinator of
the Hawai‘i Island School Garden Network. “Growing our own and creating new
relationships with our local farmers will eventually sprout Farm-to-School
programs that will change the way children eat, improving their health and
growing a local economy."
If you have any questions or want to help the project grow,
please contact Jenny Bach 962-2200 x227 or
website is www.laupahoehoecharterschool.com.