Written and Photography by Tiana Kamen
Meet Hawai‘i’s newest generation of farmers: Levi, Lilia, Kailea, Kealohi and Makoa! These 4-year-old’s love to grow and eat food from their preschool garden. Makoa’s favorite vegetables are all of them: “I LOVE carrots, lettuce, broccoli…” while Lilia has her preferences. “I LOVE broccoli too! But only when it’s wet!” “Steamed?” we ask. “No, just wet with some water,” she replies.
Their teacher, Ms. Sue, speaks cheerfully, “When children harvest greens, they carry them to the cafeteria. The chef washes them and makes a salad. The preschoolers munch it up quickly, licking lips and asking for seconds!”
These children are building a love for nature and life-long healthy habits by practicing them daily. It’s part of Farm to Keiki, a program created by Tiana Kamen, a young Kaua‘i woman. “Almost a third of children in Hawai‘i are obese or overweight before kindergarten,” she says. By empowering teachers and parents to feed their children healthier foods, we can grow a healthier generation.” Kamen provides training, curriculum and a simple Farm to Keiki recipe as follows:
1. Keiki grow food in gardens. Preschoolers learn to enjoy fruits and vegetables by growing them! While they may only have small tastes, these experiences can turn into a life-long love for eating healthy foods and home gardening.
2. The garden becomes part of the classroom. Academics come to life in the garden! Math is most fun when you’re allowed to eat what you’re learning to count.
3. Children eat fresh, local and organic fruits and vegetables daily. Preschooler’s minds, bodies and food preferences are rapidly developing. They need to be well nourished to learn and grow properly. Island School is one of many preschools statewide that participate in Farm to Keiki. Interested in starting Farm to Keiki or supporting the program? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.farmtokeiki.org.