Photo: Hands holding seedlings

by Michele McKay

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our kids could really connect with the earth in a meaningful and lasting way? If school programs could help them form a lifelong appreciation and caring for Hawaii’s environment? If planting, growing, harvesting, and eating fresh, local produce could teach them about good nutrition, healthy choices, and where food comes from? If school cafeterias could be a market for local farmers so that fresh, local crops could end up as wholesome school lunches? This may sound utopian, but it’s happening right now, right here in our islands, through the Kokua Hawaii Foundation’s farm-to-school program, AINA in Schools (Actively Integrating Nutrition and Agriculture In Schools, or AINA IS). Dedicated to connecting children with their land, water, and food in order to grow a healthier future for Hawaii, AINA IS believes “…our keiki are the seeds of change to preserving and protecting our beautiful islands.” Toward this end, the program promotes:

  • Hands-on nutrition education in the classroom
  • Garden-based learning
  • Agricultural field trips
  • Healthy food on campus, featuring locally grown produce
  • Reducing, reusing and recycling the waste in gardens, cafeterias, and classrooms
  • Family and community outreach

Kokua Hawaii Foundation’s mission is to provide students with exciting and interactive encounters that will enhance their appreciation for and understanding of their environment… but who knows? An enthusiasm for environmental stewardship and healthy living may also infect parents, siblings, and extended family members as well! What you can do:

  • AINA IS needs volunteers to help with garden and nutrition lessons, and the program is looking for farmers to host field trips, speak to classes, or offer their local produce as a school menu option. Training is provided! For volunteer information, email volunteer@kokuahawaiifoundation.org.