Mililani High School will be the next participant in the 'Aina Pono Farm to School program. Mililani High is the second largest food production site in the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE). It provides about 2,500 school lunches daily for approximately 1,000 high school students and an additional 1,500 students at Mililani Uka Elementary and Mililani Waena Elementary.
"As an alumni of Mililani High, I'm excited to have our high school participate in the Department's 'Aina Pono Farm to School program," said Fred Murphy, Mililani High School principal. "We already do a lot of scratch-cooking with our baked goods, but we're looking forward to changing up our entrées and bringing in more local home-style cooked meals into the cafeteria."
Starting this month, Chef Greg Christian, president and founder of Beyond Green Sustainable Food Partners, will be working with Mililani High's Cafeteria Manager Debora Kam and her staff.
"We won't be drastically changing the menu overnight," said Christian. "We have steps in place to observe, test and seek feedback from the cafeteria staff as well as students. They'll be sampling different dishes and helping to shape how the program is implemented at their schools."
Spearheaded by Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui, the
Farm to School Initiative started in 2015 in the Kohala Complex Area with the goal of increasing locally grown food in student meals through a partnership with HIDOE, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) and The Kohala Center.
The kitchen located at Kohala High serves about 600 meals a day to its students, as well as Kohala Elementary and Kohala Intermediate schools.
"Kohala has seen an increase in meal participation and a decrease in total food cost while serving fresher, more locally sourced food," said Dexter Kishida, Farm to School specialist. "Our goal is to create similar results in Mililani for our three Central Oahu schools."
"I have seen the Kohala program and was so very impressed by Chef Greg, as well as the smiles of the students as they eagerly checked over the lunch menu for the day," said Mililani Senator Michelle Kidani. "Mililani High School is an ideal campus to begin large-scale implementation of the Farm to School program. We have an abundance of local farm producers in the area and this is a great opportunity for students and staff to enjoy more healthful and nutritious food choices."
During the pilot process of the program, a select group of students from Mililani High, Mililani Uka Elementary and Mililani Waena Elementary will be able to sample dishes and participate in various taste tests before rolling out the new menu to all three schools. A Student Farm to School Advisory Group will also be created to include 10 student senators from the Associated Students of Mililani High School (ASMHS). These student leaders will be engaged with the program on a deeper level, helping to provide feedback to the Farm to School executive team and the Lt. Gov.'s Farm to School Advisory Group.
"It's awesome that Mililani High is now a Farm to School site," said Senator Mike Gabbard, Agriculture and Environmental Committee chairman. "This is a win-win for local farmers who get to supply the food, and for young people who, of course, benefit by becoming healthier from eating fresh produce instead of processed foods."
Today, the Farm to School Initiative is included under 'Aina Pono, which also incorporates school gardens, nutrition, health and food education, test kitchens, meal programs and menu planning at Hawaii's public schools. Most recently, the Department kicked off its 'Aina Pono Harvest of the Month program, serving
locally grown beef and
fresh, local bananas.