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 activities.
· 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 firstname.lastname@example.org The school’s website is www.laupahoehoecharterschool.com.