The First Meeting of a New Kind of Coalition

On September 28, 2017 a new model of Farm to School collaboration and partnership was born for the island of Maui. Sponsored by the Hawai’i Department of Health and hosted by the Maui County of Economic Development, members of a wide section of Maui food systems came together to create a strategic alliance and a new coalition to make Farm to School a centerpiece of action in our community for the health of our children.

Members of The Kohala Center were flown over from the Big Island to present the results of the very first Farm to School pilot program in our state, started at their center in 2016. For over the 17 months they participated in this program, the results they shared were impressive and even better, repeatable.

They created a health and wellness, community food distribution network, by bringing together state and federally funded programs that provide assistance to underserved and underfed neighborhoods and individuals. They set up full day programs there at their center to educate and distribute food on a daily basis. They also delivered large amounts of food daily to areas not being served. By also partnering with farmers’ markets, grocery stores and applying for grants, they have been able to grow food production in their district exponentially.

Students Learning from Local Chef

The purpose of this meeting was a coming together of like-minded food system groups, businesses and organizations on Maui who wish to create new healthy economic food models here. It was fortuitous having the State Department of Agriculture, Department of Health and Department of Education all present, along with Farmers, Teachers, School Garden networks and coordinators, plus numerous heads of business and community food support groups to share their stories and commit their passion toward helping change up Maui’s current food and farm challenges for growth. All attendees expressed their passion and commitment to implement change.

This meeting was the first in a 2-year commitment toward creating real policy and de-regulation to provide ease in becoming a new farmer, to support affordable housing while doing so and to help new farmers gain and contribute toward a healthy economic model for regenerative organic farming practices and innovative new food products.

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This is an exciting time for Maui and certainly an opportunity to write a new story for our island’s children, to improve their overall health and that of the island. We have the opportunity here to create better food systems for safety, for economic growth and for Ag-tourism. The members of this coalition are all go-getters, not afraid of challenges and committed to making a difference for our island!

More news and blogs will be forthcoming as we develop our strategy and policy. We will be reaching out to the community for your help when that time comes, sharing and educating with our news! Get ready Maui, the quality of our health and the health of our island are changing for the better!