Week 4: Crunch Time & Island Adventures

As I enter my final week, it’s time to enter crunch mode! Although I had a lot of difficulty getting focused on my research, it’s been in full swing. I had a meeting with the Malama Kauai staff and they helped me hone in on where my talents and research endeavors would be most appreciated and valued.

Over the last few days, I’ve been doing independent research away from the school. A few of the people I’m working with from Malama Kauai are currently at a Farm to School Conference on Oahu. While it would’ve been great to join them, I’m still able to participate by sending them specific questions to ask. It’s like I have secret agents gathering intel for me! Now that there is more focus for my project, I’m feeling pretty comfortable with my time and research here.

Wailua Falls, view after a treacherous hike.

When I’m not working on my research, though, I am doing my best to experience the wonders of Hawaii! The other day, Hsin and I went on an adventure to see Wailua falls. While it was exciting and fun, unfortunately, it was NOT the best conditions for such a trek! It was muddy, buggy and steep. I felt like a real-life Laura Croft that day.

The stunning view from outside of Queen’s Bath.
Hsin, Kelley and I also got to see and swim in the Queen’s Bath, a natural saltwater pool fed by the ocean waves and tides. While it felt a lot less risky, there was definitely a lot of inherent danger. Nonetheless, we were all careful and stayed with other locals and tourists. This is a pretty popular destination. There were so many children and families! The view looking out from here was stunning. And occasionally, you could see a sea turtle poke his head out of the water in the rough waves. Maybe my next song should be about sea turtles….

Week 3: Choosing my Path & Crafting a Mele

Mele in Hawaii

Get excited, this blog post contains music! But first, a little update on the progress of my internship.

While I had been doing research for the project alone, away from the school, I came across a listing of farmers, their certifications, and what they produce — created by Malama Kauai, the organization that I am assisting. One thing that I wish I had known in advance was more about the organization we are helping out. I didn’t realize that a list like this was already available, even if it only encompasses a portion of the island. This type of list was somewhat what I expected I would be able to create while I was here. However, based on the limited amount of time I have on the ground here, and the general difficulty it is to speak with farmers, it was unrealistic to believe that I would be able to create something like that over the span of just one month. Instead, I’ll have to remain focused on my primary goal: helping set up a plan for a school lunch program at Kawaikini.

I realized that since I had come up with the idea to partner with the college, there were splitting paths in my research. Should I focus on trying to get the community college to handle the lunch program, or should we contact farmers, hire someone to cook, and try to figure out how and where we could produce and store food on the site? It was time to figure out which way my attention should go. After discussing this with the school, we decided my efforts would be better focused on assessing how much food the school would need to procure, and what specific farms would be able to meet the demands. Since all of the other things involved in a farm-to-school plan would take a lot more time to accomplish, this is the most realistic and feasible way for me to make a difference.

A Mele about the Hawaiian Monk Seal

Besides being in Hawaii for my internship, I had hoped I’d be creatively inspired to craft an original song. After seeing the rare monk seals (llio holo I ka uaua, in Hawaiian), I can definitely say I felt inspired. Check out my music video about the endangered Hawaiian monk seal!

The significance of writing a new song is two-fold. First of all, I’ve only written one other song… it’s about axolotls. If you’re unsure what that is, check out my Axolotl Song! The second reason it’s unique and awesome: both songs are about endangered creatures.

Week 2: Unique Challenges & New Ideas


I went to my first farmer’s market on Kauai the other day, and I’ve already honed in on a few challenges I didn’t realize I would have to overcome. First of all, not everyone over here speaks English! Some people speak Hawaiian Creole (also known as Hawaiian Pidgin English). I’m honestly not sure how to break that barrier. Unfortunately, since I don’t speak that language, and I don’t have someone to translate, they might be left out of the study. Other than that challenge, I noticed that a lot of farmers at the market didn’t want to speak to me once they realized that I wasn’t a paying customer. To overcome this, I think I need to come up with a better approach and come closer to the end of the market. It would probably also be better if I could present my project from a different perspective. Instead of saying it is research, maybe I’ll explain that I’m trying to put together a list of farmers that are interested in selling their products to a school… or something along those lines. This is obviously still a work in progress.

New Ideas

I got to visit Kawakini (pronounced kava-key-knee) and experience first-hand what the school had to offer. It was a little shocking to see how little infrastructure they have in place. Their cafeteria is an outdoor tent, and they don’t have any kitchen to speak of. However, they’re in the process of looking into grants that would help them get a mobile food kitchen and/or build a cafeteria in the future, if they choose to take either of those routes. Although they didn’t have a kitchen or cafeteria, they do have a school garden!

This is the cafeteria. In the future, they plan to have a more permanent facility.

During my first visit, I got roped into weeding and planting a few new plants in it. The school officials are eager to see what I’ll bring to the table. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that one of them had read my internship proposal paper! When they realized that I was the person that had written it, they told me it was very well done and they looked forward to getting a new perspective to come up with a solution for the issue.

I tried not to disappoint! Since the school is practically on the same property as Kauai Community College (KCC) — which has a culinary program — I suggested trying to form a partnership with them. After talking to the school officials, we recognized that there would be some challenges to overcome, but my idea was really well-received and it seems like a great possibility that could benefit students from both Kawakini and KCC!

Week 1: Getting Aquainted with the Food Security Issue on Hawaii

Monk Seal on Poipu

During the first week, Greenwork (USF Partner) had an orientation where we traveled to different places on the island. We went to Malama Kauai’s farm, tried some of the local foods, visited a vendor craft and food fair, and just generally aimed to get us more acquainted with the island and it’s unique culture.

Poipu Beach, Mountains in Distance
Poipu Beach: During the last day of orientation, we went to a beach which is known to sometimes have monk seals, green sea turtles and more.

From sandy beaches, and fields of green crops, to mountains hidden by clouds, it’s easy to see why Kauai, Hawaii is considered a paradise. But reflecting on what I learned during the first week and how many farmers there are on the island, it’s strange to realize that most of the food on the island is imported. Through the USF partnership with Greenwork, I have the opportunity to join the efforts of Malama Kauai as they work with local schools to help encourage kids from a young age to foster interest in local agriculture. My role in this endeavor will be to help bridge the gap between small farms and the school system. For my project, I’ll be using Kawaikini as a pilot study — assessing the foods that they would need, finding farmers that could meet those needs, and figuring out how to meet all of the state and federal guidelines for a school lunch program. My favorite part of orientation was going to Poipu beach where I got to see two endangered monk seals sunbathing! I also happened to find a juvenile snowflake morray eel in one of the tidepools at the beach.

Monk Seals on Poipu Beach in Kauai, HI
Endangered monk seals sunbathing on the shore.
While exploring tidepools on Poipu beach, I came across a snowflake morray eel!
While exploring tidepools on Poipu beach, I came across a snowflake morray eel!


Getting Prepared for Summer

With the last semester of my M.A. program out of the way, all that is left is my research project. I have just booked my flight, and will be arriving in Kauai on June 1, 2016. How exciting!

In Hawaii, 80-90% of their food is imported. They are also at the tail-end of the supply chain, which puts them at risk when natural disasters or bureaucratic problems lead to delays. My research project aims to address the significant issue of food scarcity and dependence on importation on a small scale by developing a farm-to-school program at a local school in Kauai.

The School

Kawaikini Public Charter School does not have a school lunch program, and has a substantial number of students that would qualify for free or reduced-lunches. Instead of having their school meals provided by large food supply corporations such as Aramark or Gordon Food Services, I will identify farmers, ranchers, fishers, etc. on the island and develop a way to create a locally-sourced, farm to school lunch program that will be cost-efficient and meet the National School Lunch program requirements so their students will be able to receive their meals at .