Maui-grown pineapples are being incorporated into student meals statewide as part of the ʻAina Pono Hawaiʻi State Harvest of the Month program in May.
The Hawaiʻi State Department of Education has been increasing local agriculture through its ‘Aina Pono Hawai‘i State Harvest of the Month program since December 2017. Since then, scratch-cooked student meals have included locally grown beef, bananas, papayas and ‘ulu (breadfruit).
Scratch cooking incorporates fresh, local ingredients instead of using of processed foods, which contain more additives and preservatives. By cooking healthy meals from scratch, schools are also using less canned foods.
Maui Gold pineapples are grown on the slopes of Haleakalā, and always hand picked. The locally owned and operated company was created by former Maui Pineapple Co. employees committed to saving the 100-year tradition of pineapple on Maui. Local farmers have been cultivating the Maui Gold variety for more than 25 years.
“Instead of serving pineapples as fresh fruit on the side, our schools will be using locally grown Maui Gold pineapples in scratch-cooked student lunches statewide,” said Albert Scales, program administrator, School Food Services Branch. “We experimented with different recipes and found the pineapples worked well as a main dish in our Sweet and Sour Pineapple Pork.”
“The ‘Aina Pono Hawai‘i State Farm to School programs at Kohala and Mililani have gained a lot of popularity and interest among students and parents,” said Scales, “however, there are challenges around supply and demand. There is not enough locally grown fruits and vegetables to feed 256 schools on a daily basis. That’s where our Harvest of the Month program comes into action – introducing students across all islands to a new locally grown product in a scratch-cooked dish once a month.”