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Hawaii School Lunches Go Local

April 5, 2019

Most of us wouldn’t call the school lunches we remember from our youth “righteous.” But that’s hopefully how the keiki of today will feel about the food they’re being served thanks to the Hawaii Department of Education’s ‘Aina Pono Hawai‘i State Farm to School program.  

The program’s name — “Aina Pono — loosely translates to “righteous meal,” and the overarching intention is to reconnect students to the local food community. One way they’re doing this is by increasing the department’s purchasing of locally grown and raised food to 40%. Other goals include serving healthier food, reducing waste, and increasing student participation in nutrition programs.

“We want to honor and return to our Islands’ roots, bringing scratch-cooked meals back into our school cafeterias,” says Albert Scales, the HIDOE’s School Food Services Branch (SFSB) program administer. “It’s about finding a balance in the food we are serving with the USDA’s nutrition requirements and creating a harmony of locally grown ingredients that we incorporate into student meals.”

Kunoa is proud to be part of this worthy initiative. Thanks to our distribution partnership with Y. Hata & Co., Ltd., we are supplying all of the beef for Kauai public schools this year, and half of all beef served in Oahu public schools.

Considering that the SFSB serves about 100,000 meals to students statewide every day, more local food in public schools is an important boost to local producers like us. The HIDOE’s commitment is providing Hawaii ranchers and farmers viable contracts that help us qualify for lines of credit, expand operations, and provide more jobs for the community. It’s sizable, reliable contracts like this that have made it possible for us to add employees and double our herd size recently. You can hear our co-founder Bobby Farias discussing the impact of these contracts in the video at the top of the page.

Students are getting fresh food, raised right here in Hawaii in dishes like Beef & Ulu Stew, loco moco, and teri hamburger steak. These meals are certainly a step above the heat-and-serve processed lunches that have become too common in public schools across the country.

But what about the kids? How do they like the new foods they’re being served? According to Chef Greg Christian of Beyond Green Partners, who helped develop the program, the kids are eating more of what they’re served and they like the changes. “The main complaint is, ‘We want more,’” he says.

We’re happy to help fuel the next generation of smart kids with pasture-raised, healthy beef! They know good food when they see it.