Gov. David Ige signed a bill Tuesday that is intended to increase the amount of local food students eat in Hawaii’s public school system and boost their understanding of its importance.

Senate Bill 376 initially called for creating two farm-to-school coordinator positions but state lawmakers scaled it down to one before passing it in May. The funding is only for one year too.

Still, supporters applauded the new law.

“It’s a really great start but there’s a lot more work to do,” said Lydi Morgan Bernal, coordinator of the Hawaii Farm to School and School Garden Hui.

farm to school bill signing

Gov. David Ige holds Senate Bill 376 after signing it into law as Act 218, Tuesday, as supporters stand around him.

Governor's Office

Ige has tapped Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui to spearhead the initiative.

“This program will ensure that our kids have nutritious meals as they learn about locally grown produce and cattle,” Tsutsui said in a statement. “This is a tremendous opportunity, and I look forward to working with the program coordinator, various state departments and agencies and the community to make sure we continue to move forward.”

Across the nation, farm-to-school programs are reconnecting students to a better understanding of the food system and where their food comes from, the governor’s office said in a release.

The programs introduce students to healthier eating habits and help them become familiar with new vegetables and fruits that they and their families will then be more willing to incorporate into their own diets, the release says. The farm to school coordinator will negotiate the complicated process of procuring local agricultural for our schools.

“We need kids to be developing a relationship with food and understanding where it comes from,” Bernal told Civil Beat. “Anyone who’s ever worked in a garden with kids knows they’ll eat whatever they’ll grow.”

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