Ulupono team honored with 2021 NASDA Public-Private Partnership Award

Sep 24, 2021

Honored for exemplary efforts performed in tandem with the State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) to support local farmers, Ulupono Initiative was the recipient of the 2021 National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) Public-Private Partnership Award, presented at the 2021 NASDA annual meeting earlier this week in Louisville, Kentucky.

“This truly was a team effort, including The Food Basket which administers the Double Up Food Bucks program, as well as the State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture and, of course, our hard-working local farmers,” said Jesse Cooke, Ulupono’s vice president of investments and analytics.

The purpose of the NASDA Public-Private Partnership Award is to recognize NASDA Partners Program organizations that have partnered with a state to implement a program, project or service that positively impacts the state. Two programs were highlighted — both created in response to the devastating effects of COVID-19 on Hawaii’s agricultural producers and the state’s food supply chain”

“When Ulupono’s Jesse Cooke recognized that COVID-19 would halt tourism and the food waste the industry sells to farmers for hog feed, Cooke acted to ensure farmers’ hogs survived and partnered with the Hawaii Department of Agriculture to purchase grain for feed. This was a first step by Ulupono in raising thousands of dollars for the state’s Emergency Farmer Relief Program. Together with Ulupono’s contribution, the department provided a total of $470,000 in cash grants to over 200 farmers and organizations, mitigating the immediate impacts of the shutdown during spring of 2020.

“In addition, a second partnership between the Hawaii Department of Agriculture and Ulupono in response to the pandemic organized a coalition of philanthropists to provide $500,000 in funding to The Food Basket, the Hawaii island’s food bank. The department matched the $500,000 with CARES Act funding, totaling $1 million for SNAP participants to purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables, ground beef, eggs and seafood (through the ‘DA BUX’ Double Up Food Bucks program). By December 2020, HDOA’s program had resulted in over 120,000 redemptions by SNAP participants statewide thanks to the public-private partnership.”

DA BUX is spearheaded by The Food Basket in partnership with the Hawaii Good Food Alliance and works by doubling the purchasing power of SNAP recipients at participating Hawaii stores, offering the program’s growing number of participants — more than 189,000 enrolled as of December 2020 — greater ability to purchase healthy, locally raised and produced foods and proteins. DA BUX also helps Hawaii farmers and ag producers while benefiting the community by keeping dollars circulating locally.

Thanks in part to the demonstration of local support, The Food Basket was well positioned to receive additional federal funds in 2021, including $5 million awarded this year through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Nutritional Assistance Programs. Funds allow expansion by adding more grocers, farmer’s markets, or farm stand locations to allow more SNAP households access to nutritious locally grown fruits and vegetables.

For more information about the NASDA award, visit nasda.org.