Improving Hawaii's Food System: Initiatives and Programs in Place

Discover the various initiatives and programs in place to improve Hawaii's food system and make it more sustainable and resilient. From promoting local agriculture to advocating for policy changes, find out how these efforts are crucial for creating a better future

Improving Hawaii's Food System: Initiatives and Programs in Place

Hawaii is known for its beautiful beaches, stunning landscapes, and rich culture. However, one aspect of the state that often goes unnoticed is its food system. The food system in Hawaii is complex and faces many challenges, including high import rates, limited agricultural land, and a heavy reliance on tourism. As a result, there have been various initiatives and programs put in place to improve Hawaii's food system and make it more sustainable and resilient.

The Importance of a Sustainable Food System

Before delving into the initiatives and programs in place, it is essential to understand why a sustainable food system is crucial for Hawaii.

A sustainable food system is one that provides healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food while also promoting environmental sustainability and supporting local communities. In Hawaii, the current food system relies heavily on imported goods, with an estimated 85-90% of the state's food being imported. This heavy reliance on imports not only makes the state vulnerable to supply chain disruptions but also has negative impacts on the environment. The transportation of food from other states or countries contributes to carbon emissions and increases the state's carbon footprint. Moreover, the high import rates mean that the state is not utilizing its agricultural land to its full potential. According to a report by the Department of Agriculture, only 1% of Hawaii's land is used for farming, despite having some of the most fertile land in the world.

This underutilization of land not only limits the state's ability to produce its own food but also makes it more vulnerable to external factors such as natural disasters or trade disruptions.

Initiatives and Programs in Place

Recognizing the need for a more sustainable food system, various initiatives and programs have been put in place to address the challenges faced by Hawaii's food system. These initiatives and programs aim to promote local agriculture, reduce import rates, and increase food security in the state.

Hawaii Farm to School Program

The Hawaii Farm to School Program was established in 2010 with the goal of increasing the amount of locally grown produce served in school meals. The program works with local farmers to provide fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables to schools, promoting healthy eating habits among students while also supporting local agriculture. Since its inception, the program has seen significant success, with over 50% of school meals now being made with locally grown produce. This not only reduces the state's reliance on imported goods but also supports local farmers and promotes a healthier diet for students.

Hawaii Agricultural Foundation

The Hawaii Agricultural Foundation (HAF) is a non-profit organization that aims to promote agriculture in Hawaii and support local farmers.

One of their initiatives is the Localicious Hawaii campaign, which encourages restaurants to use locally grown produce in their dishes. For every dish sold using local ingredients, a portion of the proceeds is donated to HAF's agricultural education programs. In addition to promoting local agriculture, HAF also offers various programs and resources for farmers, such as workshops, mentorship programs, and access to funding opportunities. These initiatives help to support and strengthen the local agricultural industry in Hawaii.

Hawaii Food Policy Council

The Hawaii Food Policy Council (HFPC) is a multi-stakeholder group that works towards creating a more sustainable and equitable food system in Hawaii. The council consists of representatives from various sectors, including government agencies, non-profit organizations, and community members. One of HFPC's main initiatives is the Aloha+ Challenge, which aims to increase local food production and reduce food waste in the state.

The council also works on policy recommendations and advocacy efforts to promote a more sustainable food system in Hawaii.

The Impact of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the vulnerabilities of Hawaii's food system, with disruptions in supply chains and a decrease in tourism significantly impacting the state's food supply. However, it has also brought attention to the importance of a resilient and sustainable food system. In response to the pandemic, various initiatives and programs have been implemented to support local agriculture and increase food security in the state. For example, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture launched the Buy Local, It Matters campaign, which encourages consumers to support local farmers and businesses by purchasing locally grown produce.


Hawaii's food system faces many challenges, but there are various initiatives and programs in place to address these issues and promote a more sustainable and resilient food system. From promoting local agriculture to advocating for policy changes, these efforts are crucial in creating a more self-sufficient and healthy food system for the state.

However, there is still much work to be done, and it is essential for individuals, businesses, and government agencies to continue supporting these initiatives to ensure a better future for Hawaii's food system.

Becky Mellow
Becky Mellow

Subtly charming tv specialist. Travel expert. Evil social media nerd. Friendly beeraholic. Certified music advocate. Award-winning pop cultureaholic.

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