Farm to School on Molokai
Happy, healthy, thriving children is the vision that we at Sustʻāina ble Molokai keep in our hearts, and it’s why we put so much of our effort into implementing and improving our farm-to-school programs. We aimed to share this vision as we celebrated the governor’s proclamation of October 2015 as Farm-to-School Month.
Farm-to-school programs consist of three primary areas of focus: (1) school gardens, (2) procurement of local foods into school meals, and, (3) education around gardening, cooking and nutrition. Molokai has all of these aspects being implemented at varying degrees in our island schools. Sustʻāina ble Molokai is proud to be a part of those programs, with our two new FoodCorps members, Tara Sakamoto and Marlena Nip, leading the charge.
So far this school year, we returned to Maunaloa Elementary to set up our programs for the year, which include nutrition classes to educate students about the benefits of various fruits and vegetables, incorporating hands-on projects with the students to establish more food gardens into the school campus, and ‘Ohana Nights where families can get ideas for gardening and cooking healthier on a budget. In addition, the FoodCorps service members will be supporting the school’s wellness committee in its goals towards a healthier school community.
At Kualapuʻu Elementary, we have begun conversations to see how we can learn from and assist their already outstanding farm-to-school program, which include numerous productive garden beds around campus. In September, FoodCorps did a pilot first attempt) at introducing the fresh fruit provided to students as part of the fresh fruit and vegetable snack program. Tara and Marlena presented the white nectarine fruit and shared its nutrition information through a fun activity that visually illustrated the different body systems that white nectarines support.
At Molokai Middle School, Kumu Kelly Richardson’s classes have started on a project to transform a portion of sloped ground on campus into a terraced food garden. Her classes have already cleared away the California grass that covered the slope and Kumu Kelly is now designing carved terraces with the help of Sustʻāina ble Molokai’s Fred Richardson. And Tara and Marlena will assist Kumu Kelly with incorporating native canoe plants as well as other foods into the terraces. The service members also plan to grow vegetables in the school’s garden beds with the students taking the lead on that kuleana. In this program, students are challenged to think critically about food security and measures we can take to sustain the island’s food supply.
During November 2015, our team will be in Kaunakakai Elementary implementing an after-school program called Growing Healthy, which we piloted last school year. This program consists of an after-school program that runs several weeks and will focus on activities related to school gardens and nutrition education. In addition, we will host 2 ʻOhana Nights to get whole families involved.
Finally, Sustʻāina ble Molokai continues to maintain our two-acre permaculture farm on the Molokai High School campus, where students and community are invited to volunteer and learn about permaculture and gardening.
Farm-to-school programs encourage career pathways related to farming and food-related industries. This pathway extends even beyond farming and students can learn more about the many job opportunities available in this field. The hope is to encourage the younger generation to take on the kuleana of caring for the land so that the health of the aina and its people is perpetuated for generations to come.
In this time and age it is really difficult to find anyone under the age of 60 who really has that special talent for gardening that our school garden coordinator refers to as “Garden Whispering." However, in partnership with the high school and in particular with teacher Rick Ornelis and his small class of youth with special gifts, we can see that these students may have the “garden whisperer” edge. These are students who have been slipping through the cracks, but thanks to the teacher (kumu) and the access to the permaculture farm, Kumu Rick has been able to give the students a hands-on experience to develop gardening skills. They now come out to the farm twice a week. They look at the soil and are always full of questions like: When are the seeds going to come up? What kind of bugs help the plants grow? How soon can we eat it? Just this past week they harvested 15 pounds of sweet potatoes. They were so that they were careful to harvest every last one. We look forward to seeing what they will be able to accomplish for a whole year with their garden bed.