USDA awards Hawaii $1.3 million for 4 local food projects

Nov. 15 (Reuters) – The US Department of Agriculture has awarded nearly $1.3 million to four local food projects in Hawaii, according to a news release from US Senator Mazie Hirono’s office.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded nearly $1.3 million to four local food projects in Hawaii, according to a news release from U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono’s office.

The funds will support projects that help local farmers and increase access to locally grown food through the Hawaii Good Food Alliance, the Olohana Foundation, the Common Ground Collective and Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services.

The Hawaii Good Food Alliance received $473,935 to increase capacity at six local for-profit food centers within the Hawaii Food Hub Hui. The hubs on Oahu and across the state consolidate products from numerous smallholders to streamline and expand distribution.

They come in all maturity levels: some need more space or a different truck; some need a whole new setup. The USDA’s grant money allows the six hubs to claim reimbursement for supplies, equipment, and personnel.

“It’s really about what can best help you grow your business,” said Harmonee Williams, executive director of the Hawaii Good Food Alliance. “Food hubs really allow small farmers to have an easy market, and the majority of farmers in Hawaii are small farmers.”

Williams said the funds became available on September 30.

Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services received $248,257.63. It runs the Roots Food Hub online project and will use the grant to create an online marketplace for local farmers to reach a broader customer base.

Common Ground Collective, a Maui nonprofit dedicated to reducing dependence on imported food, received $437,668 to provide distribution support to new growers and develop the capacity of local food businesses.

The Olohana Foundation on the island of Hawaii will use its $101,491.63 grant to help approximately 33 local fruit growers develop new products that will be distributed to the local food bank and farmers market. The foundation “recently acquired older industrial juicing equipment that we plan to bring back into service,” according to a USDA document. Olohana aims to reduce on-farm food waste and increase the value of agricultural crops while improving aggregation, processing and distribution methods.

“This funding and these projects are critical as Hawaii works to reduce our reliance on imported goods,” Hirono said of the funds in a news release Monday. The senator did not play an active role in securing those grants, said George Flynn, a spokesman for Hirono.

“I will continue to work to ensure our local farmers have the resources and support to distribute their goods widely and communities have access to healthy, fresh, locally grown produce,” Hirono said in the release.

The money comes through a USDA initiative called the Local Food Promotion Program, which awarded a total of $31.8 million to 94 projects in fiscal 2022, the release said.

Two of these mainland projects received $334,542.04 for work touching the islands.

Arizona State University researchers received $95,290.04, USDA document shows. The researchers want to determine which fish species are most likely to sell and how the supply chain can be better developed.

The Conservation International Foundation in Virginia received $239,252 for a project aimed at reducing seafood waste by producing “value-added seafood products” with unwanted by-products in Hawaii.