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Monday, September 25, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs Monday, Sept. 25, 2023

Orange, green and red pumpkins grown in Kaʻū. Photo by Julia Neal

MICRO GRANTS FOR FOOD SECURITY are going from U.S. Department of Agriculture to Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture. The $3.5 million aims to support small-scale gardening, herding, and livestock operations to increase quantity and quality of locally-grown food in communities experiencing food insecurity.
    Through community outreach, HDOA will identify and administer the funding to various
groups and individuals in communities with high levels of food insecurity.
Red ribbed kale grown in Kaʻū.
Photo by Julia Neal

   Sen. Mazie Hirono, who advocated for the funding, said, “Too many families in Hawai‘i and across the U.S. lack access to affordable, healthy food options within their own communities. These grants will help people in Hawai‘i access more locally-grown food options—increasing food security across the islands. I am proud to have supported the provision in the 2018 Farm Bill that enabled this funding and I will continue working to strengthen federal support for food security projects across our state.”

    The Microgrants for Food Security Program was supported by Hirono in the 2018 Farm Bill that promotes food security not only by helping local communities grow and store more nutritious food, but also by helping feed families when supply chains are disrupted.
    Sharon Hurd, Chair of Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture said, “The MGFSP has impacted more than 1100 Hawai‘i households and 25 organizations, providing them resources to grow food for their families and neighborhoods. Food
security increases when we grow what we eat and eat what we grow—the MGFSP funds can be used to purchase, for example, gardening tools or equipment, soil, amendments, seeds, plants, animals, canning equipment, refrigerators/freezers, fencing, vertical farming units—to increase food production. Appreciate the work of our congressional delegation to bring millions of MGFSP dollars to Hawai‘i.”
    The funding is part of a larger $15 million being awarded by the USDA AMS for 22 grant projects to promote the maple syrup industry and to strengthen and explore new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products. In addition to the MGFSP, the funding is being awarded through the Access and Development Program and the Federal State Marketing iMprovement Program.

Red peppers grown in Kaʻū.
Photo by Julia Neal
   USDA Under Secretary for Marketing & Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffit said, “USDA’s investment in these grant programs will not only benefit local and regional producers, but also improve access to locally sourced food for underserved communities. We look forward to seeing the positive impacts these projects will have on the U.S. food and agricultural industry.”
    A statement from Hirono's offices notes that she is a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and "championed legislation to protect Hawai‘i’s environment, support local farmers, and secure stronger investment in the agriculture industry, while also working to ensure that communities across the country have access to healthy and fresh meals and produce."
    In September, Hirono introduced the Ag Research Act, legislation to provide billions in funding to address deferred maintenance at U.S. schools of agriculture, including the University of Hawai‘i College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, and USDA Agricultural Research Service facilities. In May 2023, Hirono introduced the RTCP Revitalization Act, legislation to secure additional funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture                         Reimbursement Transportation Cost Payment Program. The program enables geographically disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in Hawai‘i, Alaska, and other insular areas to receive reimbursements for costs incurred when transporting supplies such as feed, fertilizer, and equipment parts.
Popcorn grown in Kaʻū. Photo by Julia Neal
    In May 2023, Hirono sent a letter to Tom Vilsack, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, expressing her strong support for the agency’s proposed rule that would expand access to healthy, free school meals for students across the country.

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MAUKA TO MAKAI EATERY is open for A Culinary Journey Celebrating Hawai‘i's Bounty in Kaʻū. The founders messaged, "Get ready to savor the flavors of Hawai‘i as Mauka to Makai Eatery proudly announces its grand opening. Located at Manadina Farm and nestled in the hills above Nāʻālehu, this farm-to-table restaurant aims to redefine the local dining scene with a menu that features ingredients grown right here on the island and mostly in Kaʻū."
Mauka and Makai Restaurant co-owners Jasmine Leitzel and Justin Canelas. See www.manadina.com for more on the restaurant, events and the permaculture farm with the restaurant's grand opening this Thursday, Sept. 28. Photo from Manadina
   Lunch and dinner will be served on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., "showcasing the flavors of Hawai‘i."  On Saturday evenings, Mauka to Makai Eatery turns into a date-night spot as the menu elevates to five-course prix-fixe farm-to-table meals, available by reservation only, through Open Table. The rotating menu features appetizers, hearty soups, savory entrees and desserts. 
    Visit the Mauka to Makai Eatery website to make a reservation on Open Table. 
    A statement from the restaurant says, "What truly sets Mauka to Makai Eatery apart is its unrivaled remote location. The restaurant offers guests sweeping, panoramic views that stretch from the peak of Mauna Loa to the eastern tip of the island, giving guests a truly mauka to makai view and creating an unforgettable backdrop for your dining experience."
    "We are excited to introduce Mauka to Makai Eatery to the community and visitors alike," said Justin Canelas, chef, and co-owner of the restaurant. "Our mission is to celebrate the beauty and bounty of Hawai‘i by showcasing the incredible flavors that our island has to offer without relying on imports from the mainland. We look forward to welcoming guests to our restaurant and providing them with a dining experience that reflects the rich agriculture of Kaʻū and the Hawaiian Islands, while supporting local farmers and fishermen. Mauka to Makai Eatery's commitment to quality, sustainability, and community is sure to make it a culinary destination on the Big Island of Hawai‘i." 
     During the official opening month of Mauka to Makai, the restaurant invites celebration of the island's flavors and sights at reduced-priced lunch and dinner items for Kaʻū residents. For more information, visit https://www.manadina.com/dining  and at https://www.facebook.com/manadinafarm. Call 808-756-2059. The address of Mauka Makai is 95-1910 Kaalaiki Road. It is above Nāʻālehu on the old sugar cane haul road between Nāʻālehu and Pāhala.

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