Will Hawaii DOE’s centralized kitchen concept help or hurt local ag?

Feb 28, 2023

That’s the key question that has many “farm to school” advocates calling for a plan. The Hawaii Department of Education (DOE) requested $35 million for a centralized kitchen concept; however, advocates say it's better to increase cooking capacity at individual schools, according to a recent story by Honolulu Civil Beat.

“We encourage Hawaii DOE leadership to develop a clear strategic plan to meet its farm to school goals, including exactly how its proposed centralized kitchen strategy will avoid putting local agriculture producers at a disadvantage,” said Jesse Cooke, Ulupono’s vice president of investments and analytics, in the story.

Ulupono Initiative helped kick off the Aina Pono farm-to-school pilot programs in the Kohala and Mililani Complex Areas between 2016 and 2018. These pilot programs demonstrated how schools can increase fresh local food content, while growing student meal participation, reducing food waste, and improving cafeteria profitability. They also demonstrated the importance of consistent, timely, and accurate profit-and-loss reporting for every cafeteria. At least one of those participating schools, Mililani High School, continues cooking from scratch, feeding its own students as well as Mililani Uka Elementary and Mililani Waena Elementary to this day.

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Photo Courtesy:  Hawaii Dept. of Education