Achieving Success Through Public Private Partnerships

19 Mar Achieving Success Through Public Private Partnerships

Lives and careers have been spent working tirelessly to make farm to school a reality. Through incremental victories and years of perseverance by dedicated individuals across the county, the United States Department of Agriculture 2015 Census reports milestones such as 7,101 school gardens, 1,039 school districts serving local food during summer programs, and 42% of all schools conducting some farm to school activity whether it be a harvest of the month program, local food education, field trips, or demonstrations in the classroom. Yet, at the same time, these efforts paralleled rising diet related diseases, obesity rates in children, and health care costs.

Combating the billions of dollars spent by the food industry to market processed foods, candy, and soda requires a significant investment of energy and resources, but the future of our communities depend on our collective actions today. Without committed public and private entities working selflessly together towards a shared vision, we are all spinning our wheels, and we will continue to increase school gardens while simultaneously decrease overall health.

Nutrition during childhood and adolescence is essential for growth and development, health and well-being. Furthermore, eating behaviors established during childhood track into adulthood and contribute to long-term health and chronic disease risk. It will take all of us to start a new pattern that encourages healthy eating habits through systematic, transformational changes.

We need to move from processed to scratch cooked foods, from food being shipped across the globe to food coming from our own community, and from learning how we are a part of the system rather than enforcing a wall of separation from our food. These are monumental changes that require monumental solutions. Solutions that come from the public and private sectors coming together as one, putting aside personal missions and organizational agendas to set in motion a vision for a better future.

To cook from scratch, cafeteria staff need training and equipment, students and parents need education, and administration needs time to adjust to new ways of operating. To purchase local food, schools and distributors need relationships with farmers, and farm organizations need to work with their constituents to grow the local food supply. To erase the lines of separation, we have to get our hands in the soil, learn seasonality, and discover what it takes to get a seed to feed the community. All of these things take resources that no single person or organization can provide. We have to find a way to pool our collective strengths.

Ancient Hawaiians divided land into ahupua`a, a narrow wedge-shaped land that again ran from the mountains to the sea. The size of the ahupua`a was based on the richness of the resources with poorer agricultural regions split into larger ahupua`a to compensate for the relative lack of natural abundance. Each ahupua`a contained the resources the human community needed, but the people had to work as a system from the mountain crest to the ocean shore.

Taking this concept into consideration, we ask ourselves, “Who is in our community? What are the resources each can provide? And how can we work together to get where we need to go?” Everything we need is in front of us.

What do you aspire for your students? Then tell the world where those aspirations lie in the cafeteria. Does excellence look like frozen chicken fingers filled with unprounceable ingredients? Does well-being look like potato flakes from a bag? Does a sense of responsibility look like months-old fruit soaking in a can of high fructose corn syrup?

Chef Greg Christian and leaders from the ‘Aina Pono Farm to School program will talk about how to create a successful public private partnership at the Green Schools Conference and Expo in Denver, Colorado on May 4th, 2018.

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