Hawaii seeks local beef vendor for Oahu, Big Island schools

KAILUA-KONA — The Hawaii Department of Education is looking for a vendor to provide beef to schools as it continues efforts to locally source food for student lunches.

The department’s School Food Services Branch issued a request for proposals last month, seeking a vendor of ground beef and stew beef to serve in Oahu’s 157 schools and the Big Island’s 42 schools, West Hawaii Today reported .

School food authorities are required to source foods from Hawaii when possible. The School Food Services Branch serves about 100,000 meals every day across the state.

The cattle must be raised, finished and processed in the state for the beef to be considered local, said Dexter Kishida, the department’s farm-to-school coordinator.

The department is expecting to need 1.5 million pounds (454,000 kilograms) of beef statewide next year. There isn’t enough local production to satisfy demand on the Big Island and Oahu, but the other islands are covered.

“We have successful solicitations for Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kauai for beef,” Kishida said. “One hundred percent of the beef on those islands will be from local ranches.”

The recent solicitation notes the goals of the Aina Pono Farm to School Program, which promotes the use and inclusion of local ingredients in school meals. About 30 percent of the state’s food purchases for Big Island schools are local, including milk, Kishida said. The rates on the other islands closer to 20 percent, he said.

Part of the criteria for evaluating a vendor proposal is scoring how it meets the program’s goals to improve childhood health, support local agriculture and increase the state’s food security.

Kishida said the department is working to cultivate relationships with local farmers and ranchers to find more food sources.

“Approximately 12,000 pounds (5,400 kilograms) of produce is needed per day,” Kishida said. “It will be essential to grow with the farmers and ranchers.”

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Information from: West Hawaii Today, http://www.westhawaiitoday.com

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