The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded farm to school grants to Connections Public Charter School (Connections) in Hilo and Mālama Honua Public Charter School (MHPCS) in Waimānalo.
The USDA is investing $12 million in Farm to School Grants this year, announcing awards to 176 grantees, including 4 from Hawaiʻi. The grants will help expand access to fresh, local foods and hands-on agricultural learning for keiki.
Connections will develop learning and food production experiences for students in grades K-12. Gardens will function as living classrooms that reflect natural processes and at the same time increase students' awareness of and appreciation of the canoe plants cultivated in ancient Hawaiʻi. The School's cafeteria will use food grown by students.
Mālama Honua will refine its farm to school curriculum to align the National Farm to School framework with the deep-seated Hawaiian values and culture based makeup of MHPCS. School Director Denise Espania shared that for Indigenous and Native communities, health and wellness is more comprehensive than nutrition and physical activity. It embodies cultural values and practices while emphasizing cultural perpetuation and connection to place. The most influential health and food-based program for Hawaiian communities, such as that at MHPCS, pairs the core Farm to School elements of nutrition, school gardens, and education with MHPCS's culture-based elements of environmental stewardship and perpetuation of cultural practices.
By 2022, MHPCS will have a K-8 culture based Farm to School curriculum whose ancestral connection to land and traditions support student understanding and advocacy of food sovereignty and security. They will create educational field experiences for students with community partners. Students will engage in projects that work towards Hawaiʻi becoming increasingly more self-sustained.