Maui News

Moloka‘i Students Learn Healthy Eating Habits through Gardening

December 30, 2014, 11:46 AM HST
* Updated December 30, 11:49 AM
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Families working in the garden at Maui Farm. File photo, courtesy image.

Families working in the garden at Maui Farm. File photo, courtesy image.

By Maui Now Staff

Moloka‘i elementary students are getting up-close and personal with food through classroom, cooking, and gardening activities as part of a national program to address childhood obesity and food insecurity.

Students at Mauna Loa Elementary school learned about soil texture, particle size, and water retention this year, among other activities spanning from soil biology to Hawaiian studies, agriculture to planting and cooking.

The hands-on experience for students is a health-centered initiative led by FoodCorps Hawai‘i, a nonprofit organization partnered with AmeriCorps and hosted by The Kohala Center. FoodCorps is dedicated to garden-based nutritional education, changing youth attitudes toward food and raising eco-awareness through experiential learning. The organization brings motivated leaders into underserved communities to teach kids about food, what it is, where it comes from, and how to build and maintain gardens. The garden-grown foods are often incorporated into school cafeterias.

The first year of the FoodCorps Hawai‘i program served 1793 students on O‘ahu, Moloka‘i, and Hawai‘i. Local students harvested over 1,400 pounds of produce from their school gardens. Three-hundred-one pounds of it was donated to people in need. The remainder was cooked, sampled, and eaten by students.

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The classroom-grown garden produce also sells at local farmers markets, makes healthy snacks for break-time munching, and teaches students about sustainable living.
Twelve Hawai‘i schools on three islands have been selected for the program in the 2014-15 school year.
On Moloka‘i, Lacey Phifer, Jameil Saez, Sustainable Moloka‘i, and the Molok‘i School Garden Network will serve as garden and nutritional educators.

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Service members who sign up for the FoodCorps program dedicate one year of full-time work to educating students. Applications for the 2015-16 service period with Hawai‘i FoodCorps will be open from Jan. 9 to March 30 at the FoodCorps website.

FoodCorps Hawai‘i is currently funded by the Ulupono Initiative, The Bill Healy Foundation, Hau‘oli Mau Loa, CyanoTech, AmeriCorps Hawai‘i, and the WHH Foundation. The Walmart Foundation’s State Giving Program recently joined the effort.

For more information about the FoodCorps Hawai‘i program, visit The Kohala Center’s website.

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