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The Growing Solution
Eat healthy, buy local and help Hawaii thrive.
Photo: David Croxford
In the past several years, we’ve seen Hawaii’s local food movement jump from the roadside produce stand into the mainstream. We’re opening more farmers’ markets and purchasing more products there. Community supported agriculture programs (CSAs) are gaining traction. More boutique restaurants featuring local produce and seasonal items are appearing in our neighborhoods.
Community leaders, local chefs, foodies and grocery shoppers applaud this shift. Yet with 85 to 90 percent of our food still coming from places other than our Islands, they also recognize the need to keep moving in the right direction.
The solution is to get even more local food into our farms, our grocery shelves and on to our plates and palates. For growers and policy makers, this means resolving issues involving land and water use, cost of transportation, labor force and grower education, according to Dean Okimoto, president of the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation and Nalo Farms.
The change won’t happen overnight. However, “the demand is there,” Okimoto says. "The consumer has a huge role. They determine the market," says Russell Kokubun, Chairman of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture.
Each of us has three meals a day (and some snacks) to promote Hawaii’s sustainable food movement and improve our health. It's a delicious job!
Here’s how you can help:
• Shop farmers’ markets. Keep supporting your local growers by buying directly from them. Visit the iconic farmers market at Kapiolani Community College. Or, find one in your area at the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation site, hfbf.org, or ediblecommunities.com/hawaiianislands/ by clicking on the “Resources” tab.
• Look for the labels. When shopping, check for the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s Hawaii Seal of Quality which denotes a Hawaii-grown or Hawaii-made product. The Island Fresh label also indicates a local product.
• Grow your own. It’s the most environmentally sound way to eat and it’s fun! For how-tos and plant info, pick up Growing Vegetables in Hawaii and Growing Fruits in Hawaii, both by Kathy Oshiro, available in paperback at besspress.com or amazon.com.
• Subscribe to a CSA. Subscription-based community-supported agriculture programs deliver boxes of fresh produce to your home or office. On Oahu, check out Oahu Fresh at localharvest.org, Ma‘o Farms at maoorganicfarms.org or Just Add Water at just-add-water.biz. Find a statewide list at localharvest.org.
• Buy responsibly-raised local meats. When beef is on the menu, choose local and grass-fed varieties. Choose local, organic, free-range chicken and eggs when possible, too.
• Enjoy healthy seafood (local, if possible!). Make sure you know where your fish came from and how it was caught. Visit nmfs.noaa.gov/fishwatch/ and look up the health benefits and “sustainability status” of just about any type of fish. Learn more about Hawaii’s bounty at hawaii-seafood.org.
Just for Kids
Join the Fisher Family on a shopping trip, camping trip or sport-fishing trip, where you’ll learn about the health-iest fish to eat. Find it at the EPA’s “Fish Kids” website, epa.gov/waterscience/fish/kids.
The Hawaii Farmers Market Cookbook Vol. 2, by Joanne Namkoong, includes recipes made from local foods from renowned chefs including Sam Choy, Alan Wong and Roy Yamaguchi. Purchase information at bookshawaii.net.
Six Simple Steps … to a greener plate
1. Keep to the perimeter. Troll the outer edges of grocery stores to find the freshest local produce, dairy, seafood and meats.
2. Plan your meals. Planning meals and cooking your own food saves money, controls portions and often yields higher nutritional benefits than fast food or frequent takeout. It helps the planet, too!
3. Get more protein from plants. Experiment with power grains like quinoa and millet at your next meal. They’re packed with nutrients and are usually raised with less impact on the environment than meat-based proteins.
4. Eat whole grains. They’re better for you and for the environment than processed counterparts. Experiment with delicious whole grains such as buckwheat (used to make soba noodles), spelt and amaranth. Save money by buying your grains in bulk.
5. Know your plate. The USDA’s new MyPlate guidelines recommend a diet roughly three-quarters vegetables, fruits and grains and one-quarter protein. Plant-based diets are a win-win for the environment and for your health. Find out more at myplate.gov.
6. Decode the messages. You know “grass-fed” and “cage-free.” But what does “pasture-raised” and “no nitrates” mean? Visit the Environmental Working Group’s Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change and Health at ewg.org/meateatersguide/ and learn what meat and dairy labels matter.
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