Channel: The Kaʻū Calendar News Briefs, Hawaiʻi Island
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Ka`u News Briefs Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017

Ka`u Farm School held its second session on Sunday at Earth Matters Farm at the corner of South Point and Kama`oa Roads.
See story below. Photo by Raina Whiting
GOVERNORS WHO ARE REPUBLICANS AND GOVERNORS WHO ARE DEMOCRATS acknowledged the value of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, during the winter National Governors Association meeting in Washington, D.C. on Sunday. In the governors' session called Ending Childhood Hunger: Improving Lives and Investing in America's Future, they emphasized the importance of SNAP and the federally assisted National School Lunch Program, which provides free and reduced price lunches and breakfasts to help children stay healthy and fit for education. They also discussed the nutritional challenge for children in poverty during times when school is out of session, particularly during summer.
Huge images of children relying on federally funded food programs were projected
 at the National Governors Association meeting in Washington, D.C. on Sunday.
Photo by M. Martin Neal
     After the day's meetings, the governors headed to the White House to dine with President Donald and First Lady Melania Trump, with Hawai`i Gov. David Ige and First Lady Dawn Amano-Ige among them. During the White House dinner, which Trump called the Governors Ball, the President told the governors and companions that he will meet with the National Governors Association members about health issues on Monday, as they wrap up their three-day event.
      The session on childhood hunger was held at the National Governors Association meeting venue, the JW Marriott in downtown Washington D.C. Chef Hugh Acheson, known for his cookbooks, restaurants and for serving as a judge on the television show Top Chef, urged governors to help remove the stigma from children receiving free food at school. He also emphasized the importance of providing children with free breakfasts to give them a head start on each school day.
     The First Lady of Virginia, Dorothy McAuliffe, reminded governors that "For the first time, half of all public school children are eligible for free or reduced lunch," supported by the federal government. "Nutrition is an essential tool to help children focus and learn," she said.
Governors were reminded in large graphics that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's
assistance in serving breakfasts to children lowers absenteeism at schools.
Photo by M. Martin Neal
   In Ka`u, the poverty rate is high enough that Ka`u High & Pahala Elementary and Na`alehu Schools are among the 30 schools in Hawai`i that qualify for all students to receive free federally subsidized meals, under the U.S. Department of Agriculture Community Eligibility Provision.
     In addition to working with the federal government to subsidize school meals, Hawai`i's governor and his administration recently launched a Farm to School program to source more locally grown food for school campuses. The fresh food will be served to staff and students who will have the opportunity to learn about farming, ranching and good nutrition. Other programs help establish school gardens on the campuses.
     Outside of school, the nutrition situation for children in poverty in Hawai`i is summed up in  state Senate Bill 28 that was deferred this session. It says that the Hawai`i Legislature finds that because of Hawai`i's high cost of living and food prices, many low-income families struggle to purchase food. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program - food stamps - " is a crucial means of providing necessary assistance in the purchasing of food for some of Hawai`i's most disadvantaged citizens." However, fewer families sign up for the program than qualify.
      Hawai`i secures over $500 million a year in SNAP funding but has ranked third from the bottom among states with the fewest percentage of eligible people enrolled in SNAP, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In March of 2016, for example, 341,802 people in Hawai`i were enrolled in Medicaid, which means they likely qualified for SNAP, but only 165,697 were enrolled in SNAP. If these additional people were enrolled, the state would be eligible to receive an estimated additional $274 million a year, substantially increasing the number of families receiving food subsidies through SNAP in Hawai`i.
     The legislators identify the problem as partly due to families being unaware of being eligible for SNAP or how to sign up for it. The legislation would allow health care providers to become involved by questioning their Medicaid patients about receiving SNAP and arrange an outreach. The data would also be reported to the legislature to "create a mechanism in which policy makers can better establish plans to maximize federal funding and fight hunger," the legislation states.
    The legislation also reports on the benefit of $247 million of additional SNAP federal funding being injected into the local economy.
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THE SECOND KA`U FARM SCHOOL CLASS on Sunday offered a session on soil and composting and drew an outlook on agriculture by Rep. Richard Creagan. He said that leadership positions in the state administration and in the Hawai`i Legislature are aligned for supporting small farms. He said that Gov. David Ige "wants to double food production, so this is a good time to develop opportunities for small farmers." Said Creagan, "It is very important to get small farmers going if we are going to have a lot of food production." Creagan, who lives in Ka`u, is chair of the state House of Representative Agriculture Committee and said that Sen. Mike Gabbard, who chairs the state Senate Agriculture Committee, and sate Department of Agriculture chief and Board of Agriculture Chair Scott Enright "are all on board."
Rep. Richard Creagan addresses a Ka`u Farm School class on Sunday.
Photo by Raina Whiting
     Creagan noted that , "So much of our agriculture in Hawai`i today has nothing to do with food production." He named macadamia nuts and coffee as examples of food that is mostly sold to tourists. "And seed corn  (grown to collect seeds for planting corn) goes to the mainland," Creagan said. 
       He said, "We need to inpower the small farmer with land, water, and capital. For labor, many families could help provide the work to grow the food." Creagan predicted that "food grown for families would ramp up to food for the communities and food for the state."
       Creagan said he is also interested in food from forests. He said he plans to introduce a resolution for the state Department of Agriculture and the University of Hawai`i to study the idea of the "a pig forest, where pigs would be wild and eating among trees like macadamia, guava and avocado, but separated out from the native forest and from wild pigs with disease. They would be harvested or hunted as needed." He said there is a good example of growing pigs among trees in Spain.
        Raina Whiting, one of the organizers of the Ka`u Farm School, said classes are open to friends, supporters and those interested in learning more about farming, agriculture and growing food in Ka'u. They are sponsored by Hawai`i Farmers Union United and the Kohala Canter, as well as Earth Matters Farm. Make contact through  kaufarmschool@gmail.com or 808-721-6977. For future class topics, see 

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HOVE Road Maintenance board of directors meeting, Tue, Feb 28, 10 a.m. 929-9910

Ka‘ū Food Pantry, Tue, Feb 28, 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., St. Jude’s Episcopal Church in Ocean View.

Line Dancing, Tue, Feb 28, 2 – 3 p.m., Kahuku Park. Ages 6 – 12 register Feb 22 – 27. 929-9113


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