The Farm to School Initiative, spearheaded by Lt. Governor Shan Tsutsui, is looking for qualified local farmers and vendors to submit bids to bring local fresh fruit and vegetables to schools statewide. The program is an effort to best utilize the supply and demand surrounding the purchasing of local food for school cafeterias. In addition, the initiative aims to systematically increase state purchasing of local food for school menus as well as connect our keiki with their food through the use of products from the local agricultural community. Qualified farmers and vendors are asked to submit bids that reflect their ability to deliver fresh fruit and vegetables by July 13.
“With Hawaii importing about 85 percent of our food, the Farm to School Initiative is one way we are working towards becoming food sustainable in our state, said Tsutsui. “While supporting local farmers and our economy, we are also feeding our students with locally-grown fresh fruit and vegetables.”
Across the nation, farm to school programs are reconnecting students to a better understanding of the food system and where their food comes from. These farm to school programs–and the new Hawaii initiative–introduce students to healthier eating habits and help them become familiar with new vegetables and fruits that they and their families will then be more willing to incorporate into their own diets.
The Hawaii Department of Education and Department of Agriculture are working collaboratively with Lt. Governor Tsutsui on the Initiative; HIDOE has 256 public schools and its School Food Services Branch feeds approximately 100,000 students and staff each day.
“We’ve made it a priority to purchase local produce, however, our options have been limited,” said Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “We are hopeful that this initiative will allow for more locally-based products to be used in our schools’ food services while keeping costs reasonable.”
Scott Enright, Chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture, encourages local farmers to participate in this program. “One of the challenges farmers face is the uncertainty of supply and demand and this program will help farmers plan and grow their crops with the knowledge that there will be a market for their produce,” Enright said. “In addition, keiki will be able to grow up with an appreciation of locally grown fruits and vegetables.”
In April, the Farm to School Initiative gathered information from farmers and ranchers as well as hosted a mixer to inform them on how to become a qualified vendor with the state. Those events, including the IFB, culminates with the Farm to School Initiative Pilot Project, which is expected to begin in 2017.
The invitation for bids (IFB) can be found at Spo3.hawaii.gov/notices/notices/ifb-d17-005.
Photo: Elina Mark/Wikimedia Commons