A In April, Kahului Elementary School cafeteria manager, Perry Yadao, accepted a delivery of 10 pounds of poi from kalo farmer, Bobby Pahia, and Aloha Poi Factory owner, Lester Nakama. Yadao was able to purchase poi through the ‘Āina Pono Program which seeks to increase local food in student meals, as well as, connect our keiki with the ‘aina through food.
In addition to being locally grown and produced, poi is a cultural staple that has not only sustained Hawaiian families historically, but still serves as one of the best superfoods in today’s modern diet. Poi is fat-free, high in fiber, low in sodium, gluten free, high in vitamin B, calcium and phosphorus. Proper levels of phosphorous in a diet support brain function, cognitive growth and development. Poi also currently plays a large role in Hawai’i as part of a diet to overcome obesity, diabetes and heart disease bringing us back to a traditional, local food that many of our ancestors ate. “I’ve been working in the DOE since 1997 and I’ve never seen poi available, so I thought I would try it as a healthy alternative for the students. I served it for breakfast as a parfait with pineapple,” Yadao said.
The ‘Āina Pono Hawai’i State Farm to School initiative through the Department of Education has successfully supplied fresh locally grown products to Hawaii public schools such as Okinawan sweet potato, ‘ulu, pineapple, papaya, and banana for the past two years. However, securing a consistent supply of kalo and poi had not been possible until ‘Āina Pono partnered with the Maui-based, Mahi Pono LLC to procure kalo from Maui farmers as part of the Keiki Poi Project. Along with Blue Zones Project and HEAL (Healthy Eating, Active Living Coailition), the effort to make healthy, local options more available in schools has become a reality in Maui County.
For the first time, seven Maui County schools are serving poi through the ‘Āina Pono Program including Kilohana Elementary, Maui High School, Kula Elementary, Lahainaluna High School, King Kekaulike High School, Kahului Elementary, and Waihee Elementary.
* 1/2 cup poi
* 2 tablespoons cold water
* 2 teaspoons agave (or other natural sweetener)
* 1/4 banana, sliced (local, if can)
* 2-3 strawberries, sliced (organic, if can)
* 1/4 cup blueberries (organic, if can)
Mix poi and water. Add agave and blend well. (May be prepared in advance and chilled). Pour poi mixture in bottom of bowl. Layer with granola and top with assorted sliced fruit.
Enjoy this dish. It can be eaten for breakfast or part of a healthy lunch or dinner and can easily be made with the keiki.
Image Credit: Sean Michael Hower