WAIMEA — What was so special about Beck’s Hybrids delivering about a hundred ears of corn to the Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital, Friday morning?
The delivery by Blaise Boyle, the Beck’s site manager, Sarah Thompson, Beck’s agronomy manager, Jay Lagazo, Christian Schlosser, and Gov. David Ige’s Kauai liaison Carrice Gardner, was met by Kingsley Simeona, the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation, Kauai Region cafeteria manager who explained the delivery marked the start of the Grow to Order phase of the farm to table program the HHSC, Kauai Region started back in February.
“This is part of the Grow to Order phase,” Simeona said. “But we need the corn because we have a salad on the menu, today that calls for corn. This is going to the kitchen, now so we can hopefully catch the first salads going out. We also have other menu items, including corn on the cob, corn fritters, a corn salad, and corn chowder that we’ll be using the corn in.”
Thompson said this is the very first produce delivery — 40 pounds of fresh corn — by Beck’s Hybrids in the Farm to Institute program.
“The corn was picked up at 4 a.m., this morning to preserve the freshness,” Thompson said. “We hope to support the Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital as well as several schools in the future. This is just the very beginning for us. We will likely make additional deliveries of sweet corn in the next few weeks, if everything goes well. We also have plans to supply watermelon to the hospital and local schools.”
Thompson said Beck’s Hybrids also has 1.82 acres of watermelon planted in anticipation of the deliveries that is expected to harvest in early August. Additionally, there are test plots planted with several vegetables, herbs, and other crops the Kekaha-based farm is in trials with.
The farm to table program that is still awaiting a formal name is still a work in progress, Simeona said.
“It has its roots in the Farm to School program worked through the Department of Education,” said the cafeteria manager who oversees both the KVMH and Mahelona hospital culinary programs. “The state leaders wanted this initiative to improve the experience of nutritional meals for keiki and kupuna to expand to other institutions such as the prisons, hospitals, and more. For us, this is a work in progress after we started the menus in February. Today’s delivery marks the Grow to Order phase that raises the percentage of locally-grown products to state institutions.”
The HHSC, Kauai Region has demonstrated its growth within the program when KVMH prepared the entire meal for its recent scholarship presentation utilizing the farm to table concept. More recently, the luncheon served during the Mahelona Hospital’s first summer outing to Lydgate Park was also prepared under the farm to table concept.
“Several of us have been referring to the program as the Farm to Institution program, or F2I for short,” Thompson said. “But I also saw Sen. Ron Kouchi call it ‘Farm to State’ during the Kauai Chamber of Commerce Second Quarter General Membership meeting. Both names have been used interchangeably so far. The strategy of this movement is to provide nutritional meals for state institutions and has been a passion of Sen. Kouchi. First Lady Dawn Ige joined the movement by launching programs for the DOE such as the Jump Start breakfast for schools under the ‘Aina Pono initiatives.”
HHSC, Kauai Region CEO Lance Segawa stepped up to assist in the implementation of an improved nutrition menu for both KVMH and Mahelona hospitals, in the fall of 2018 when Segawa confirmed to Ige that the Kauai Region hospitals supported the farm to table initiative.
He utilized the services of Greg Christian of beyondgreenpartners to work alongside Simeona and Monica Moore, and the kitchen staff and nutrition staff to make the transition to nutritional meals utilizing locally-grown products in early 2019.
“Exciting improvements are ahead for our community,” Thompson said. “Beck’s Hybrids Farms has an outstanding team who agreed to step forward to initiate the first Grow to Order farm produce for our hospitals on Kauai. A number that caught my eye is that today, both hospitals are proud to share that 42 percent of all food items purchased to date are local with 94 percent of menu items from the 5-week menu cycle are prepared from scratch.”
In addition to the contributions from Beck’s Hybrids, numerous other locally-grown farms on Kauai have been providing farm fresh products to the hospitals’ program, including Kauai Shrimp, Makaweli Beef, True Leaf Farm, Kuamo‘o Farm, Aloha Aina Poi Company, and more.
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.