Rep. Amy Perruso: A Vision For Feeding Hawaii - Honolulu Civil Beat

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About the Author

Amy Perruso

Amy Perruso is an educator who represents House District 46 (Wahiawa, Whitmore Village, Launani Valley) in the Hawaii Legislature.

It is clear, after two years of pandemic, extreme weather, and now a war halfway around the world, that relying on imports for nearly 90% of our food supply makes our islands vulnerable.

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Policymakers and communities have responded with bold targets to ramp up local food production and consumption: double food production by 2030, increase local food in schools, and more. But we must go further.

We can change Hawaii’s food system to do so much more than just grow more food. We need a holistic vision for agriculture, in which farming and food can increase food security, improve health, address the climate crisis, strengthen communities and drive economic prosperity.

My vision is an agricultural system that is culturally grounded and place-based; uses practices that build healthy soil and protect water; fuels local economies across the islands; supports and respects small producers, farmers of color, and Indigenous Hawaiian food systems; and prioritizes food to nourish our communities rather than as a profit-making commodity for big business.

Work towards this kind of vision is already happening on the ground. The advocates, parents and educators who make up the Hawaii Farm to School Hui work tirelessly to strengthen farm to school connections and improve access to local foods for public school students. The Honolulu City and County Food Security and Sustainability Program has done innovative mapping of Oahu food and land access to better understand our needs and assets.

Native Hawaiians are doing critical aina-based work to reclaim and revitalize Indigenous food systems such as loko ia and loi kalo. There are examples like these across Hawaii.

A screenshot from the Hawaii Farm to School Hui
A screenshot from the Hawaii Farm to School Hui website. Screenshot/2022

This community-based work, and the education that comes along with it, is what is going to transform our relationships to food and aina for future generations.

As state legislators and other policymakers, we must follow the lead of those on the ground and see our individual bills as pieces of a much larger effort. I am proud of initiatives I have advanced for healthy soils, carbon sequestration, and farm to school, because we are working towards a food system that is environmentally sustainable and good for our kids.

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My colleagues have worked to support new farmers from high school training programs through farm apprenticeships, both for the individuals who will be trained and because we are working toward a food system that brings economic success.

Individual citizens have a role to play in this vision. Ask yourself: what are the points in the food system where you can effect change?

Parents can tell their school principals that they would like more local food served in the school cafeteria. Grocery shoppers and restaurant diners can tell their stores and cafes that they would like more Hawaii-grown food on the shelves and on the menu.

Individual citizens have a role to play in this vision.

Ask decision-makers at all levels how they’re going to fix our food system: how will they make us less dependent on imported food? What is their plan, not only for increasing the amount of food grown here, but for building the infrastructure and for nurturing the political will to get it to the people of Hawaii where we live, work, shop, and eat?

Citizens must raise our voices to show policymakers that food — and all that it touches: the environment, economy, public health, community well-being and so much more — is important.

Together, we can ensure that we can feed Hawaii’s people and malama this aina now and long into the future.

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About the Author

Amy Perruso

Amy Perruso is an educator who represents House District 46 (Wahiawa, Whitmore Village, Launani Valley) in the Hawaii Legislature.

Latest Comments (0)

There are so many things the state & each county could do to encourage food production in Hawaii:To avoid having large operators crowd the small farmers out of the market, focus all incentives on SMALL FARMS.- waive property taxes on owner operator farms of 2, 3, 4 acres or less.- waive property taxes on land that is used for farming.- waive GET on local produce.- Give tax credits to restaurants / grocery stores who buy local.- Give tax credits to small farms.- Subsidize the cost of water to small farms / prioritize supplying water to small farms (over large farms).Hawaii needs to diversify its economy, and growing food here is a great way to do it. Even if the economic impact is tiny, we should avoid outsourcing our food production (for many reasons).

StopWastingMoney · 1 year ago

Has anyone put forth the idea that each year it is required that food that is grown here but bought off island be required to be bought here in a manner that is ratcheted up each year until its reaches a more desirable level. Government and our laws can create a playing field that corporate food buyers etc can adjust to as long as everyone else is required. It could be tailored to the different industries and their needs and limitations.

Chas · 1 year ago

Farmers are generally good at back-of-the-envelope calculations. We can look at what's happening right now with fertilizer shortages, diesel prices, disturbing images of an empty lake Mead and know that the next few months are going to be shocking for everyone who depends on consuming calories for a living. Next legislative session there will be incredible support for local agriculture initiatives, and those of us who are paying attention need to have some ready-to-go solutions in order to avoid wasting the momentum. School lunches and expanding EBT are a good start, but we really need to implement radical agroecological strategies similar to post-Soviet Cuba.

Intelligentsia · 1 year ago

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