Bringing the ‘aina to Oahu schools

January 26th, 2012
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Students and volunteers at Kainalu Elementary School celebrate a boost in funding from Kaiser Permanente for their school garden program and a summer conference. Through Aina in Schools, the students can participate in an after-school Garden Club where they learn to tend to plants and compost, and enjoy a weekly salad bar in their cafeteria. Photo courtesy of the Kokua Hawaii Foundation.

Students and volunteers at Kainalu Elementary School celebrate a boost in funding from Kaiser Permanente for their school garden program and a summer conference. Through Aina in Schools, the students can participate in an after-school Garden Club where they learn to tend to plants and compost, and enjoy a weekly salad bar in their cafeteria. Photo courtesy of the Kokua Hawaii Foundation.

Aside from the challenge of getting kids to eat their veggies, parents sometimes have to educate them about where they come from other than in a plastic bag from the supermarket. Many kids have no idea — do carrots grow on trees or peas sprout from the ground?

Making an effort to change all that is the Kokua Hawaii Foundation's ‘Aina in Schools, a farm-to-school program aiming to connect children to their land, waters and food for a healthier future.

A total of 12 public elementary schools on Oahu participate in the program, so far. Students learn how to garden as well as get a lesson in nutrition. Four schools have salad bars, and four participate in a fresh fruit and vegetable snack program.

Kaiser Permanente recently presented the Kokua Hawaii Foundation with a grant to fund two projects: A school garden food safety certification pilot program and this summer's Hawaii State Farm to School Conference.

Food safety certification for school gardens is a major hurdle for schools to get produce grown on campus into the lunch program, according to Dexter Kishida, Kokua's school food coordinator. So this is a first step towards getting some of those garden greens on to students' lunch plates.

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