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VIDEO: Mayor Kirk Caldwell announces new ‘Farm to Food’ program for Oahu residents

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A new program that will use $4.3 million in federal CARES Act funds to help Oahu’s disadvantaged families to be fed and its farmers to stay afloat financially was announced today by Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

The new Farm to Food program provides funds for the island’s nonprofits to purchase and distribute locally grown meats and produce for an estimated 100,000 meals to families in need through the end of the year, Caldwell said.

A variety of locally grown products are part of the plan including papayas, bananas, ground beef, carrots, tomatoes, cabbage, okra, honey, peppers and zucchini, “all grown here in the soil of Oahu, picked by the hands of the people of this island, packaged here on Oahu, sold here on Oahu, and now (being) put together for 100,000 meals,” Caldwell said.

“It’s about food production and job creation, and it’s about sustainability and expanding our capacity to support ourselves for the long-term future and goodness on this island,” the mayor said.

The city is partnering on the program with the Hawaii Farm Bureau, the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center, food distributor Aloha Harvest, service provider Lanakila, and community health clinics Kōkua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services and the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center.

Some of the food will be distributed by the nonprofits in the form of prepared dishes while some may be given out in their raw form, city officials said.

Brian Miyamoto, Hawaii Farm Bureau executive director, said Farm to Food is expected to play a key role in helping the island’s roughy 9327 farms and ranches to survive the impacts of the pandemic. “We want our farms … not to just to be sustainable, but to grow our operations … if these farms go out of business, they’re not starting back up. Who’s going to provide the food for our local residents and our tourism population that will be coming back, slowly?”

Ho Farms farmer Justin Ridgely said the state’s farmers have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Hawaii’s farmers are doing their best to adapt,” Ridgely said. “We’ve lost many of our forms of distribution and some of our vital accounts. The lack of tourism, closure of hotels, restaurants and farmers’ markets have had serious affects on our farms.”

Taylor Kellerman, Kualoa Ranch director of agriculture, ranching and conservation, said Farm to Food will provide “a shot in the arm” for ranchers who’ve been hit hard economically by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city has until Dec. 31 to spend roughly $387 million in CARES funds. Caldwell told reporters that the city has spent or allocated 93% of its funding. “We’re holding a little bit, just in case something comes up and we need it,” the mayor said.

“We’re trying to be prudent, we’re trying to make sure we help people and businesses on Oahu during these most difficult times.”

Among related programs aimed at helping the island’s food industry are the city’s Farm to Car and Fish to Dish programs which both help connect food producers directly with the public.

Watch the press conference via the video above, or go to Mayor Caldwell’s Facebook page.

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