This month, Hawaii public schools are serving locally raised, grass-fed beef in its hamburger patties. Elementary and middle school students will be served teri hamburger steak, while high school students will enjoy teri loco moco lunches.
This is part of the Hawaii State Department of Education's (HIDOE) effort to include more fresh local agriculture in student meals. It is made possible through a joint partnership with the Lieutenant Governor's Office, the State Department of Agriculture, the Hawaii Cattlemen's Council and the Hawaii Beef Industry Council.
"This is a great step forward in providing healthy options in our meal program and working with partners to make these opportunities possible," said Superintendent Christina Kishimoto. "We appreciate the support of the Hawaii Cattlemen's Council and the Hawaii Beef Industry Council. Their partnership allows our students to understand the connection and importance of local agriculture."
In 2015, Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui spearheaded a partnership effort called, "Farm to School" (also known as 'Aina Pono), with HIDOE, the Department of Agriculture and The Kohala Center to increase local food in school lunches using products from the local community.
The Farm to School Initiative addresses the supply and demand issues surrounding the purchasing of local food for our State school cafeterias. The Initiative also aims to systematically increase state purchasing of local food for our school menus as well as connect our keiki with the 'āina (land) through their food, using products from the local agricultural community.
"This initiative is a major game-changer in the way we are feeding our kids in schools. Along with changing what our keiki eat, we are serving them food made with local, fresh ingredients," said Lt. Governor Tsutsui. "This is a win-win for our students because they eat healthier, and for our farmers and ranchers because we are supporting our local agricultural industry."
Today, the Farm to School Initiative is included under 'Aina Pono, which HIDOE has now adopted as its own. In addition to school gardens, nutrition, agriculture, health and food education, 'Aina Pono has expanded to include test kitchens, meal programs, menu planning and efforts to include more fresh local agriculture in student meals.