w Editor’s note: This is the entirety of an article printed in TGI’s Jan. 17 Wellness section, as much of the original article was unreadable due to formatting errors.
LIHUE — Local bananas are being showcased in schools this month through the state Department of Education’s ‘Aina Pono Harvest of the Month Program. Kauai schools, though, are sourcing the fruit from other islands.
The program kicked off last year with locally grown beef as a staple in the Farm to School Initiative, and this year the DOE and Lieutenant Governor’s Office have partnered with the state Department of Agriculture to source bananas from local farms to serve at public schools.
About 34,000 pounds of bananas are being provided by several local farms, including Sugarland Growers Inc., and Ohana Banana Farms.
Bananas for the Kauai schools are being shipped to the island from Oahu, according to the DOE, because the demand is too high for Kauai suppliers to meet.
“We’re highlighting locally grown bananas by serving either a fresh banana pie or banana crumble one day in January at every school cafeteria,” said Albert Scales, administrator, DOE School Food Services Branch. “By introducing a produce that is locally grown in Hawaii to our students each month, we hope to expand their palates and allow them to try new foods that they might not have been exposed to at home.”
Scales said serving the bananas in a dessert makes them more appealing to students.
“Instead of serving raw bananas that students can peel and eat, we wanted to be creative,” he said. “Part of introducing new foods to children is making it fun for them. If the new food looks interesting, they’re more inclined to try it.”
The DOE is changing the way food is purchased, prepared and delivered, and the ‘Aina Pono Harvest of the Month program is a great opportunity for Hawaii’s agriculture community.
“This new program that was developed under the Farm to School Initiative continues to cultivate the partnership with our schools, farmers and ranchers,” said Scott Enright, chairman of the state Board of Agriculture. “It also connects students with the farming community, allowing them to experience the taste and freshness of what Hawaii has to offer.”
The Farm to School Initiative started in 2015, and was led by Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui. The program was created to increase locally grown food in student meals through a partnership with Tsutsui, DOE, DOA and The Kohala Center.
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.