West Maui Food Revolution Community GroupThu 01 Mar 2012
Story by James Simpliciano
My revolution began in 2007 when I was volunteering my time with students at Lahainaluna High school in Hawaii. Working with a youth at risk program called ‘Alternative Learning Center’ (ALC) I wanted to share my knowledge in good fresh home cooked meals.
As a lead Banquet cook at the Westin Maui I not only enjoy cooking but also devoting my time towards growing healthy nutritious organic fruits and vegetables, wherever possible trying to maintain and sustain localvore - buying local produce, and growing community gardens.
I set up the West Maui Food Revolution group in July 2011 to support the ALC and farming for the community on the island of Maui. My goal for this farm is to feed my community and use the page to promote our work and gain support.
Where It All Began
I was inspired by a great Farm, Oahu Mao Organic Farm and I truly believe every community should have more outlets like these for the youth. I believe teaching about food is great, and creating an activity such as gardening keeps kids fit, and out of the house. Coupled these could be a solution also to fight childhood obesity.
My love for cooking, along with being a localvore, led me to create Culinary Tasty Tuesday at the ALC. Each week in the program we create a weekly menu and help raise funds for their classroom farm. First set up 20 years ago, at coach Lenny Tihada’s home, the farm has since moved with the help of many volunteers to the Lahainaluna High Schools old football field where prior students - with the help of local chefs and farmers - were the pioneers of getting the farm to where it is today. We plant taro, bananas, raising tilapia, goats, hydroponic greens, cucumbers and winter squash. Sales of these produce go to purchasing computers, tools, animal feed and recently, culinary uniforms.
Culinary Tasty Tuesday
Next steps were to bring in more volunteers, guest chefs and the students families in order to develop the program even further. Our group branched out to help build school gardens, community gardens, and acquiring abandoned farm land. At the beginning of this school year instead of just cooking healthy lunch meal alternatives, we learned about the science of growing vegetables, either through aquaponics (growing fish and plants sustainably in water ), hydroponics (cultivating plants in water), and earth grown plants.
This year we aim to help the ALC program continue to inspire students to grow food in school gardens and to develop this program into a hands-on classroom farmed experience. We also hope to help make these students the leaders and mentors of tomorrow.
Goals For 2012
Aims for this year include creating a non-profit organization to developing an after school garden and culinary program by incorporating programs through community college level ages 17-24, and welcoming anyone with the desire to learn and grow food.
Although I have faced some challenges including finding the time to dedicate to students on top of my full time job and working with limited farm tools (I’m saving for a tractor!) I have received great support in this mission. Friends, family and the community have been truly supportive in meeting my including the coaches, and local restaurant Honu, Mala Tavern, Merrimans, Pacifico, Dania Katz, Sales director of Edible Hawaiian magazine, Hula Grill, Kaannapali Coffee Farms, and Gunnars Valkirs, and Al Palayo. Thank you!
About the author: James Simpliciano, a long time Food Revolutionary enjoys being able to supply and share food that he has grown. James has a degree in associate in science Culinary arts, has received an award for community service and runs the West Maui Food Revolution group. You can follow him on twitter - @kimosimpliciano.
Images: ALC sustainable luncheon for visiting science teachers. meal comprised of farmed raised orange tilapia, taro chips, braised greens, and fresh tomatoes and beets.
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