Be the change you want to see”, said Pono Shim, president of Enterprise Honolulu, quoting Mahatma Gandhi in his opening statement for the two-day, fifth annual Hawaii Farm to School Conference on June 1. One hundred and fifty-five teachers, garden educators and parents attended workshops on topics such as composting, school gardens and providing local and healthy foods on campuses. Throughout, volunteers were on hand to compost food lunch waste and fill the stainless steel water bottles each participant was given.

On the first day, discussions, lectures and hands-on training were held at Waikiki School. Day Two offered three field trips options to educational garden sites around Oahu. All participants were treated to chef-prepared lunches, and the event went so well that Kokua Hawaii Foundation (KHF) plans to offer more of them throughout the school year. “It will be an opportunity for garden educators across the state to visit other school gardens and learn from one another”, said KHF executive director Kim Johnson.

In addition to the garden sessions, 40 school administrators, policymakers and advocates met to discuss advancing Hawaii’s statewide Farm to School movement, which aims to educate students about where their food comes from and to increase procurement of local foods by the state Department of Education. The overall goal is to strengthen Hawaii’s local food economy while improving the health and nutrition education of our students and communities.

Participants traveled from the neighboring islands and from as far away as Florida. Was it worth it? “This is my fourth Farm to School conference, and I always get rejuvenated, inspired, centered and healed”, said Natalie Hiwahiwa Joyce-Maeda, a garden kumu at three Kauai schools. “I get to see people once a year and that sustains me for the rest of the year”.

The conference was organized by the KHF and Hawai’i Association of Independent Schools with funding provided by KHF and Kaiser Permanente. Community sponsors included Hula Grill, Whole Foods Market, Go! Airlines, Sheraton Waikiki, Roy’s Hawaii, Cafe Julia, Prima, and D.K. Steakhouse. These people and organizations are making a difference, “from the ground up.”