Maui News

Grant program opens for Food Hubs to help meet demand for Hawaiʻi-grown food

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Sun Fresh/Maui Hub packing staff
Sun Fresh/Maui Hub staff pack food. File photo courtesy of Maui Hub.

The Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture has opened a grant program to support the establishment and expansion of food hubs in Hawai‘i. Proposals for the Food Hub Pilot Program are now being accepted for grants between $50,000 and $250,000 aimed at increasing the capacity of food hubs, which are centrally located facilities where food products may be aggregated, stored, processed, and marketed.

The pilot program was approved by the legislature and Gov. David Ige in 2022 with an appropriation of $1.35 million.

“Most Hawai‘i farms are small operations and are not able to fill large orders from schools, hospitals, other institutions and businesses,” said Sharon Hurd, chairperson of the Hawai‘i Board of Agriculture in a department news release. “Food hubs provide a gathering point to pool produce from many farmers to fill large orders for locally grown produce.

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“In addition, food hubs assist with the distribution, processing foods for added value, online sales and marketing which allows farmers to actually concentrate on what they do best – growing and producing more food,” Hurd added.

This HDOA grant program is specifically for food hubs that are focused on food that is grown, raised or sourced within the State of Hawai‘i.

According to a Hawai‘i Food Hub Hui report, there were 14 food hubs in Hawai‘i in 2021 which employed about 200 employees and serviced 1,337 food producers with total sales of $14 million. Most food hubs provide emergency food distribution and many support child and elderly nutrition programs.

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In establishing the pilot program, HDOA believes that support of food hubs will be integral in reaching local food purchasing goals set by statute. In the 2021 legislative session, Act 175 mandated the Hawai‘i Department of Education to establish the goal to purchase at least 30% of food served in public schools from local sources by 2030. Also that year, Act 176 required other state agencies (hospitals, correctional facilities, etc.) to increase the percentage of locally produced foods by 10% by 2025, 18% by 2030, 26% by 2035, 34% by 2040, 42% by 2045 and 50% by 2050.

To view the Request for Proposals and application information, go to the State Procurement Office website at: https://hands.ehawaii.gov/hands/opportunities/opportunity-details/22663

The deadline to submit applications is noon, May 3, 2023. For further information, contact HDOA’s Market Development Branch at 808-973-9627.

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