October madness

October is a big month for national health and wellness programs — it’s National Child Health Month, National Farm-to-School Month, Eat Better Eat Together Month, Health Literacy Month, and more. The message is clear – it’s important to educate our youth on food and overall well-being so that they can choose to lead long, healthy, fulfilling lives.

Being the Garden Island and home to amazing local farms and food producers, it’s no surprise that Kauai is celebrating these themes in a big way, especially Farm-to-School Month. It was officially designated by Congress in 2010 as a time to observe the importance of Farm-to-School programs to improve child nutrition, support local economies, sustain local farms and ranches and educate children about the origins of food. Kauai has lots of exciting activities planned!

October marks the official launch of Village Harvest, a new partnership program between Malama Kauai’s Kauai School Garden Network and UH’s Kauai Master Gardener Program, which harvests four acres of CTAHR’s productive orchards and delivers the produce to schools and afterschool program across the island. The program will also be providing workshops at schools on food harvesting and safety. Their first official harvest put 350 pounds of fresh fruit into the hands of local children in just two hours with 14 volunteers. The funding for this project was provided by the HMSA Foundation. The Kauai Master Gardener Program will open for applications this month.

w Today, Malama Kauai Executive Director Keone Kealoha will be speaking at the Hawaii Farmers Union United monthly potluck and community meeting about Farm-to-School programs on Kauai. Malama Kauai’s Kauai School Garden Network is ramping up their program for 2015 and has provided technical assistance, funding support, materials and more to all school gardens across the island since 2010. This month, they will be announcing their new Kauai School Garden Network Coordinators who will each be supporting a different school district on the island, as well as complete a school garden installation blitz.

w Thursday, Oct. 16 to Saturday, Oct. 18 Malama Kauai will be hosting Project Learning Tree for environmental education workshops for teachers and educators. Attendees will participate in interactive, hands-on environmental education activities that they can use with their students and receive a free curriculum guide full of activities for use in the classroom. Workshop attendees will also become eligible for Project Learning Tree grants for environmental education projects. Project Learning Tree is the environmental education program of the American Forest Foundation and is sponsored in Hawaii by the DLNR-Division of Forestry and Wildlife, the Hawaii Nature Center, and US Forest Service. Workshops will be held at Lihue Library, but advanced purchase of tickets is required as limited seating is available. You can reserve your seat online at www.malamakauai.org or calling 828-0685 x12.

w On Thursday, Oct. 23 (the day before National Food Day) you can eat out for a good cause at Merriman’s in Poipu to benefit Kauai School Garden Network’s garden installations on the south side. Twenty percent of proceeds upstairs at Merriman’s Fish House and downstairs at Merriman’s Gourmet Pizza and Burgers all day count toward the fundraiser. Merriman’s is one of the island’s leading farm-to-table restaurants that highlights local fish, beef and produce throughout their menu.

w On Sunday, Oct. 26 Malama Kauai will celebrate the launch of their new Community Farm, a combination of the two-acre Kauai Food Forest project, 42-plot Kalihiwai Community Garden, and a new two-acre chicken and vegetable farm. The farm provides plant materials, food, internships and learning opportunities for the community and will be expanding its food production capabilities and educational workshops in 2015. Malama Kauai will provide a tour of the farm at 9 a.m., followed by a hands-on farm work day until noon, and ending with a celebration of food and music from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. If you’d like to join in the fun, meet at 9 a.m. sharp at the greenhouse in the front of the Malama Kauai property at Wai Koa Plantation in Kalihiwai Ridge. Be sure to dress appropriately and bring work gloves, sun protection, and a reusable water bottle.

For Halloween, the North Shore Lions Club has teamed up with Kilauea School for their second “Happy Healthy Halloween,” a holiday celebration that provides (and promotes others offering) organic candy, healthy treats and fun non-food gifts to children.

Instead of loading up our kids on bags of sugar for months in one night, it’s a unique opportunity to teach kids about tasty healthy treat options that parents will be happy to give their children, such as chocolate covered raisins and nuts, granola bars — and even Halloween themed school supplies. Find out more at www.facebook.com/healthyhappyhalloween.

Keiki to Career Kauai will release the 2014 Kauai Youth Report this month with information about the achievement, health and well being of Kauai youth.

This important report will be available on their website at www.keikitocareer.org/outcomes. Keiki to Career is an exciting new multi-year initiative that networks education, human service and youth programs, families, and business to create a holistic, integrated system of supports from cradle to career so young people are “ready to learn and ready for life.”

By working together as a community, we can ensure that our keiki not only have access to good food, but know how to grow their own food, make healthy choices for their future, and understand career options available to them in these areas – and that’s something to celebrate all year long! For more information on many of these events and programs or to volunteer in a school garden near you, visit www.malamakauai.org or call 828-0685.

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Megan Fox is the director of operations of Malama Kauai and oversees the Kauai School Garden Network programs alongside Executive Director Keone Kealoha.

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