May 01, 2018

Senator Hirono Expresses Support for Local Products in Public School Lunches in Visit to Mililani High School

HONOLULU – Senator Mazie K. Hirono and Lieutenant Governor Doug Chin visited Mililani High School to highlight the Aina Pono Farm-to-School Initiative and Harvest of the Month programs that increase the use of locally grown produce and beef in public school lunches.

“The Aina Pono Farm-to-School Initiative and Harvest of the Month programs connect Hawaii’s agriculture community with our public schools to supply our keiki with nutritious, locally grown school lunches,” Senator Hirono said. “The Mililani High School students I met with today are excited about their school lunch program, and I look forward to seeing these programs expand to schools across the state.” 

“U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono has long supported and promoted local agriculture and sustainability programs,” Lieutenant Governor Chin said. “It’s no surprise that she sees the value in the Aina Pono Hawaii State Farm-to-School Program. After meeting with the students and staff of Mililani High School today, she saw how the students have become ambassadors of this excellent program, and more importantly, why the Aina Pono program should be expanded throughout our state.”

The Hawaii Department of Education School Food Services Branch is working hand-in-hand with local farmers to increase the volume of their harvests to meet the demand of serving lunch to 180,000 public school students. Once a month, a new local product is served in all 256 public schools statewide as the Harvest of the Month entrée. Products served since December 2017 include local beef, banana, papaya, ulu, and pineapple.

In 2014, Senator Hirono met with Haliimaile Pineapple Company and discussed their efforts to include pineapples in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s national school lunch procurement process. Following that meeting, Senator Hirono connected Haliimaile Pineapple with the Hawaii Department of Education. The Department of Education’s School Food Services Branch worked with Haliimaile Pineapple to determine the best packing, distribution, and storing methods, and this month, their fresh Maui pineapple will be served in a Sweet and Sour Pineapple Pork entrée as this month’s Harvest of Month product. 

In 2015, Senator Hirono and then-Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden met with student council representatives, Hawaii Department of Education administrators, and school officials at Liholiho Elementary School. They discussed the importance of the school lunch program and the unique challenges Hawaii farmers face in distributing produce to schools, such as production volume and selecting menus for Hawaii’s statewide school system.

Senator Hirono has strongly and consistently advocated for programs that provide students, women, children and families, and seniors with better access to healthy and affordable meals, and has continued to push back against the Administration’s efforts to roll back these important programs while advocating for increased funding for school meals in Hawaii.

Senator Hirono is also a cosponsor of Senator Patrick Leahy’s (D-Vt.) Farm to School Act of 2017, which would strengthen the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School Grant Program and increase the amount of local foods in schools. The State of Hawaii previously received approximately $187,000 under this program.