Maui News

Kamehameha Schools Launches Campaign to Improve Food Security

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Kamehameha Schools and The Kohala Center today launched Mahi‘ai a Ola, a campaign to support local farmers, agricultural education, and innovative solutions to improve food security.

Mahiʻai a Ola is an ʻāina-based lifestyle concept “that is not about living to eat but rather eating to live,” according to program organizers.  “In the larger food system, farmers don’t just cultivate food, they cultivate minds, families and communities,” organizers said.

With nearly 90% of Hawaiʻi’s food being imported, the program partners with farmers to increase local food production.

Tom Menezes, Farmer & Owner Hawaiian Crown Plantation & Chocolate Factory, at cacao field. Photo courtesy of Kamehameha Schools

“When you break down the concept of mahiʻai – it’s about the energy and the vigor of working with the land. It’s also part of the word ʻāina,” said Marissa Harman, KS Asset Management Director on Hawai’i Island. “Together, it’s about sustaining oneself, one’s community – feeding the mind, body, and spirit.”


“The Mahi‘ai a Ola initiative is truly a unique opportunity for our Hawai’i Island farmers,” said Cheryl Ka‘uhane Lupenui, president and chief executive officer of The Kohala Center. “Not only will we be able to grow more local food, but we can grow more viable mahi‘ai working with ‘āina as a meaningful way of life in Hawai‘i. It takes hard work, resources, innovation, and a love for the land to feed our families, neighbors, and communities. This is mahi‘ai a ola. The Mahi‘ai a Ola campaign unites friends and farmers to strengthen our relationship with food for the greater health and well-being of our communities and ‘āina.”


Mahiʻai a Ola is an initiative that evolved from the Mahiʻai Match-Up program as an opportunity to increase agricultural awareness in support of the farming industry, while reinvigorating innovation, community connections, and a commitment to future generations. Mahiʻai a Ola is made up of three programs:

  • Mahiʻai Match-Up: An agricultural business plan competition in which the winner is awarded a five-year land agreement with KS and a $10,000 cash prize donated by Ulupono Initiative. The winner will also have the support of KS land asset managers, along with wrap-around business services and financial guidance from The Kohala Center. Applications for the contest are due by September 20, 2019.
  • Mahiʻai a Ao: Scholarship awards for various agriculture-related educational programs, in partnership with GoFarm Hawaiʻi
  • MahiX: An open innovation challenge seeking cooperative solutions to Hawaiʻi’s most pressing agricultural issues.

KS stewards more than 160,000 acres of agricultural land on Hawai’i Island. Farmers on KS land raise a variety of crops such as papaya, bananas, vegetables, ʻulu, Kona coffee, macadamia nuts, cacao and livestock such as pigs and cattle.

Since 2013, KS has sought innovative farmers through the Mahiʻai Match-Up business plan competition and provided them with a financial boost to increase their long-term chances of sustainable success. Alongside these efforts, TKC has worked hard to support the Hawaiʻi island food system with farmer training programs, youth education initiatives, and rural and cooperative business development services to inspire future generations of food producers and help them succeed.


Funds raised on behalf of Mahiʻai a Ola will provide scholarships and funding for new and innovative ideas and initiatives that support agriculture and food security.

“Because farmers, like students, thrive in a healthy environment, Mahiʻai a Ola is about more than land and money; it is about honoring our mahiʻai as exemplars in our community, true lāhui lifters, who not only grow food but provide sustenance for all,” Harman said.

To learn more about Mahi‘ai a Ola or to enter the Mahi‘ai Match-up business plan competition, visit KSBE online.

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