Aired Friday, April 23rd, 2021, by Hawaii News Now’s HI Now Segments.
The segment was sponsored by Ulupono Initiative.
It’s never been more important to buy local than it is now. As communities continue to recover from the pandemic, supporting local farmers and ranchers will be critical in addressing long-term food insecurity.
Hawaii Farm Bureau Executive Director Brian Miyamoto says Hawaii’s dependence on just-in-time delivery and importing 80-90 percent of our food leaves communities exposed. A strong agriculture economy is critical to addressing Hawaii’s long-term food security and resilience issues.
The pandemic illustrated this critical importance. The Hawaii Department of Agriculture estimated that Hawaii farmers lost 50 percent of their market nearly overnight, largely because of sudden shutdowns of restaurants and the state’s dominant visitor industry.
Local farmers, ranchers, food banks, and service non-profits needed to join together to feed Hawaii families on an immense scale. Miyamoto says it was inspiring to see local food growers and producers throughout Hawaii step up to support struggling families. For example, the Hawaii Foodbank formed a new relationship with the Hawaii Farm Bureau. In 2019, the Hawaii Foodbank spent $400,000 on all food purchases, normally depending on donations from grocers and distributors—and zero purchases from local farmers. That compares to the more than $2 million spent on local farm products in 2020.
One thing most can agree on about 2020 is that habits changed throughout the year. Oahu residents shifted the way they shop for groceries. Many have committed to buying more local products in support of island agriculture while enjoying the nourishment that fresh products offer.
Hawaii Farm Bureau supports island farmers as well as the non-profit organizations that purchase food from those farmers. As 2020 highlighted the state’s food security challenges, it was also clear that the goal was not to just return to the pre-pandemic status quo, but also to address the long-term food security problems exposed by the pandemic.