The Farm to School Program in Hawai’i

In this series, we are taking a closer look at elements in the Hawaiian food systems including innovations and issues. Hawaiian agriculture is unique to the islands and showcases a host of special challenges.

Read on for Carly Wyman’s experience with Hawaiian agriculture. She is the Swette Center’s on-the-ground team member researching Hawai’i’s food, agriculture, and policy. In this series, Carly shares her insights on the unique challenges in the Hawaiian food systems.

From 2015-17, I served as a FoodCorps service member, educating elementary students on Hawai’i Island in garden and nutrition education. As a service member, I was placed into 3 different rural public schools and worked to integrate state standards into garden programming. Though there was a time when nearly every school in the islands included a school garden, this trend began to decline in the 1970’s (Malaai, 2021). However, a growing movement for farm-to-school has been returning school gardens to their rightful place in the local food system. There is currently an effort under way to prioritize agriculture education in schools from the preschool to postsecondary levels. The “P-20” working group has made recommendations to the Hawai'i State legislature to increase training of and funding for agricultural teachers to address agriculture education across all ages (University of Hawai'i, 2019). Through increased availability of agriculture education, the next generation of farmers can be trained, which will ultimately support increased food security in the islands in the long-term. This experience helped me to understand the importance of agriculture education in Hawai'i, not just for supporting more healthy food preferences in children, but also for Hawai'i as a whole, supporting long-term sustainability.