Just Living…Just Food

I’d like to talk about one of my favorite topics, food.  In Hawaii, we import about 90% of our food and export about 80% of our agricultural production.  Growing up in Hawaii, we primarily ate processed foods that were typically unhealthy and came a very long distance to get to my table.  There are several things I am trying to do to remedy this.  First, I am trying to eat organically and locally to the extent possible.  Whether it be growing my own food, shopping at the farmer’s market, or at produce stores that carry primarily local or organic foods, such as Down to Earth, I am attempting to eat foods in which I know where it came from.  I reduce my carbon footprint by doing so, because of the fuel saved, whether it be by plane, train, or trucks, when food is not imported. Eating local means you are eating fruits and vegetables seasonally when they have the fullest flavor and nutrients.  It also supports the local economy, benefits the environment, and promotes food safety.  I try  to eat organic because it reduces my body’s total toxic burden, it is non-GMO, it is richer in nutrients, antioxidants, and lower in heavy metals, and because it is good for the Earth.

In Honolulu, I have found the Kaka’ako Farmers Market at Ward Warehouse on Saturdays to be a fun and enjoyable experience.  You can learn more about this market at my wife, Shelly’s blog. A favorite vendor of ours is  MA’O Farms out of Waianae.   MAʻO is an acronym for mala (garden) ʻai (food) ʻopio (youth) or youth food garden and it affirms their belief that when we reconnect and restore the relationship between the land and the people, we are able to return abundance and prosperity to youth, to their families and to the community.  Shelly and I try to buy our fruits and veggies for the week there. We have also joined the national organization, Slow Food USA and the local chapter Slow Food Hawaii.  The aims of Slow Food Hawaii are to:

  • Advocate for renewed interest in and support for our local food culture
  • Promote biodiverse and sustainable producers and purveyors on our a’ina and in our ocean
  • Bring people together to rediscover the pleasures of the table

I am also trying to get involved with research projects that promote food justice here in Hawaii.  One project I am excited about involves promoting backyard aquaponics in the town of Waimanalo and developing curriculum to promote nutrition, healthy lifestyles, social support, and sustainability of the aquaponic systems.  There is a large Native Hawaiian population in Waimanalo and because of its rural location, there are few grocery stores that provide quality produce at reasonable prices.  Through this project, we hope to develop leadership within the community to support one another around the use and maintenance of aquaponics, share information about what grows well in these systems and exchange healthy recipes that can be made from what is grown.  The most common fish raised with good results in aquaponics is tilapia.  Besides lettuce and herbs, native medicinal plants such as ‘olena, otherwise known as turmeric, has been grown with good results.   We also hope to raise awareness around the use of medicinal plants in healing or la’au lapa’au.  I have the honor of working with two wonderful colleagues, Dr. Jane Chung-Do (University of Hawaii Public Health) and ‘Ilima Ho-Lastimosa, MSW.  I hope to share more about this project as it develops in the future!

What are ways in which you are promoting food justice?  I’d love to hear about your ideas and the things you are doing.

Photo found at AVAKonohiki.org

2 thoughts on “Just Living…Just Food

  1. Selena Dye says:

    Maika”i nui professor! I have moved back home to Hilo after 3 years and it is wonderful to get back to our garden and orchard. Like you, we try our best to grow all our produce and eat local products. For many of our people here in Puna, eating organically and locally can be not only financially prohibitive but difficult without suitable grounds for agricultural. We have started a hui to share with others how to produce some of their foods with minimal costs by sharing mana”o and laulima and provide each other with ongoing support in their farming efforts. Most important, connectivity to the land is important for a healthy spirit and mind. Please share events in my area if you come across any.


    • Mike Spencer says:

      Mahalo e Selena! This kind of hui that you speak of is exactly what we need to promote around our communities, similar to the ahupua’a model of our ancestors. I’ll share what I find and please do the same!


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