Hawai'i public schools will celebrate the upcoming holiday season with an Okinawan Sweet Potato Pie as part of November's 'Aina Pono: Harvest of the Month program. The pie will be served on a day selected by participating schools, which includes more than 200 cafeterias statewide.
"This is the first time we'll be including local Okinawan sweet potatoes from the Big Island in students' meals," says Dexter Kishida, Farm to School coordinator, School Food Services Branch. "We wanted to create a local spin-off of the traditional pumpkin pie that many enjoy during Thanksgiving."
Keolu Elementary School Cafeteria Manager Edita Montgomery and her cafeteria staff created the original recipe, which was modified to enhance the pie's flavor, accommodate mass production and meet nutritional guidelines. As a skilled baker, Montgomery said it was also important for the recipe to use ingredients that are available to schools.
"The whole wheat flour that schools normally use changed the taste of the crust, so we adjusted the ingredients by modifying it after our shortbread cookie recipe to improve the flavor," said Montgomery. "It's an honor to be a part of the 'Aina Pono program as we transform student meals and incorporate more locally grown ingredients."
Kishida added that one of the great things about the 'Aina Pono: Harvest of the Month program is how students have an opportunity to try new local foods and expand their palate.
"As a child, exposure to different types of food is highly dependent on what the child's family members provide for them," he said. "If students haven't tried Okinawan sweet potatoes before, this is a chance to try something new. We're thankful for our sponsors and community partners who make it possible to continue this program and allow our students to explore the different flavors our local agriculture community has to offer."
Locally grown products previously featured in the program include beef, bananas, papayas and pineapples.
About 'Aina Pono
The Hawai'i State Department of Education (HIDOE) continues to increase local food in student meals through its 'Aina Pono programs, including Farm to School and Harvest of the Month. These programs help to connect students with the 'āina (land) through food, while using products from Hawai'i's local agricultural community.
The original Farm to School Initiative was spearheaded by the Lieutenant Governor's Office in 2015, after Senate Bill 376 was signed into law as Act 218. Today, the Farm to School Initiative is included under 'Aina Pono, which features the Department's School Food Services Branch's other educational programs, test kitchens, meal programs, menu planning, nutrition, school gardens and more. For more information about the 'Aina Pono programs, please click here.