‘Aina Pono Programs

The Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) is increasing local food in student meals as well as connecting our keiki (children) with the ‘āina (land) through their food, using products from the local agricultural community. Learn more about the 'Aina Pono programs, including Farm to School and Harvest of the Month.

About the program

The Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) is increasing local food in student meals as well as connecting our keiki (children) with the ‘āina (land) through their food, using products from the local agricultural community.

The effort to include more local ingredients in student meals is made possible with the help of local farmers across the state of Hawaii. HIDOE has also established community partnerships and continues to receive support from the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA), the Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH), The Kohala Center, Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation, Ulupono Initiative, the Hawai‘i Farm to School Hui, Dorrance Family Foundation, Hawaii Appleseed, Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation (HFBF) and HMSA, to name a few.


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. A pilot program followed in the Kohala Complex Area on Hawaii Island through a partnership with HIDOE, 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. It also serves as a cooking and education lab, while providing needed data on costs and waste to inform scaling the program in other regions. 

In January 2018, Mililani High School was selected as the next participant in the ‘Aina Pono Hawai‘i State Farm to School program. As HIDOE's second largest food production site, Mililani High 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. For more information, click here

New 'Aina Pono logoThe program's goal is to address the supply and demand issues surrounding the purchasing of local food for Hawaii public schools. The program also aims to systematically increase state purchasing of local food for student meals. The video above provides an overview of the effort.

Today, the Farm to School Initiative is included under 'Aina Pono. The program's new name – ‘Aina Pono Hawai‘i State Farm to School – and logo (pictured right) designed by Blackletter Group is the result of rebranding efforts designed to unite all of the programs operated by the Department's School Food Services Branch (SFSB).

"We've created ‘Aina Pono as a way to combine the Farm to School Initiative with our other educational programs, including ‘Aina Pono Harvest of the Month, test kitchens, meal programs and menu planning," said Albert Scales, SFSB's program administrator. "Health and food education, nutrition and school gardens are now included under ‘Aina Pono as well."

The Hawaiian word ‘aina – without the kahakō or macron – refers to eating or meal. Pono means righteousness and is often used to mean being honorable, doing things correctly, being in a state of balance and harmony.

"When we combine the two words together – ‘Aina Pono – it can loosely translate to 'righteous meal' as one interpretation," said Scales. "Along those same lines, to be 'pono' is about doing what's right. We want to honor and return to our Islands' roots, bringing scratch-cooked meals back into our school cafeterias. It's about finding a balance in the food we are serving with the USDA's nutrition requirements and creating a harmony of locally grown ingredients that we incorporate into student meals."

‘Aina Pono: Harvest of the Month Program

HIDOE continues its efforts to include locally grown products in student meals through its ‘Aina Pono: Harvest of the Month program. Some featured foods of the 'Aina Pono Harvest of the Month: 

Harvest of the Month Recipe

The provided recipe has been adapted for home use, courtesy of Dana Shapiro at Hawai'i 'Ulu Cooperative. (Click here for a printer-friendly version.)

Servings: 12 Servings


Pie Crust

  • 3 tablespoons softened butter
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon water, as needed

Pie Filling

  • ½ pound Okinawan sweet potato (1½ cups, mashed)
  • 1 large egg
  • ¾ cup evaporated milk (6 ounce can)
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • pinch of salt (omit if using salted butter)
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoons orange juice, fresh squeezed or concentrate
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
  • pinch of ground cloves or nutmeg


Pie Crust

  1. Mix butter and sugar on low speed until combined.
  2. Add vanilla and increase speed to high; cream for 5 minutes.
  3. Add flour, mix on low to combine. Do not over mix. Add water as needed to bring dough together.
  4. Lightly coat pan with cooking oil spray or butter.
  5. Spread and flatten dough directly in 9-inch cake pan or pie tin. Note that the dough will be soft and delicate and should not be overworked. Dock crust by poking dough several times with a fork.
  6. Bake at 375°F in middle rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Edge of crust should appear light brown in color.

Pie Filling

  1. Steam, peel and mash sweet potato by hand. Use mixer on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes until very smooth and free from lumps.
  2. Add eggs, milk, butter, salt, brown sugar, flour, orange juice, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Mix on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes until smooth and well blended.
  3. Pour pie filling into crust. 
  4. Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes, reduce to 375°F for 15 minutes until inserted knife comes out clean.
  5. Cool and enjoy.

Nutrition information for Okinawan Sweet Potato Pie – Serving Size: 1 piece; 90 calories; 4 g total fat (saturated fat: 2 g); 14 g carbohydrates; 1 g fiber; 1 g protein; 11 mg sodium. Click here to view the carbohydrate count. 

Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and food preparation. Nutrient levels may vary based on methods of preparation, origin, and freshness of ingredients, etc. Value of the menu item is listed in grams (g) of carbohydrates rounded to the nearest whole number. While we do our best to ensure accuracy, we make no representation or warranty regarding the information contained in this document. Although we are providing nutritional information for our menus, the information in this document is for informational purposes only. No information, services or materials offered shall be construed as or understood to be medical advice or care.)

Photo courtesy of Dana Shapiro

USDA Nondiscrimination Statement

In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA. 

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339. Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at: http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:

(1)  mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights

1400 Independence Avenue,

SW Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;

(2)  fax: (202) 690-7442; or

(3)  email: program.intake@usda.gov.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

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