In September, Kona Pacific Public Charter School received notice the Hawaii County Equal Opportunity Council was ceasing food service operations. The termination of the only federally approved nutrition program for West Hawaii created a crisis for the 200 residents dependent on HCEOC for their day’s nutrition.
These residents included Kona Pacific students, low-income citizens served by Meals on Wheels and other programs, and children served by Head Start and Early Head Start.
The administration at Kona Pacific responded by taking over the program in its entirety. In 10 days, the school, with assistance from food service consultant Carleton Gillenwater, had the program up and running.
“We couldn’t let these most vulnerable members of our community … go hungry,” said Chris Hecht, the school’s executive director. “So we took on this program, with a pledge to make it better, healthier and more responsive to the needs of our community.”
The new program, West Hawaii Ono Local Eats Food Service, uses some components of the former HCEOC operation. The service leases the same kitchen facilities and hired existing staff members with years of experience, U.S. Department of Agriculture training and certification, and willingness to serve the community.
Kona Pacific is currently developing a farm that will be integrated with the food service program to ensure the program’s ongoing access to produce.
The program uses the standards and regulations of the USDA National School Lunch Program, My Plate and the Hawaii Department of Health to bring fresh local cuisine to school, health care facilities and community service organizations at a minimum price point.
To schedule a presentation explaining the program, or to become a program supplier, contact Hecht at 895-3030 or firstname.lastname@example.org.