- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 29, 2016

LIHUE, Hawaii (AP) - A Kauai organization is working to give parents an opportunity to ensure their children are getting fed at school while also being educated on Hawaiian culture, as many have had to choose between the two.

Hawaii public schools are able to provide free lunches for low-income students as part of a federally-funded program. Malama Kauai is working to ensure that economically disadvantaged charter school students are able to get a meal during the school day, The Garden Island reported (https://bit.ly/1StbHK3).

“The DOE schools have Hawaiian history and culture programs, but that’s not their focus,” said Keone Kealoha, executive director of Malama Kauai. “And about 100 percent of the students at Hawaiian-focused schools qualify for free lunches, but the schools don’t have the capacity internally to apply for the national lunch program.”

Deciding whether to give a child an education based on Hawaiian culture or send them to a public school so they can get fed “shouldn’t be a choice parents have to make,” Kealoha said.

Malama Kauai has been bridging that gap by helping charter schools that focus on Hawaiian culture build gardens so that students can grow their own food, including native Hawaiian vegetables like uala, ipu and taro.

Several Kauai schools have benefited from the program, which started in 2010. A greenhouse and a garden with several hundred beds of taro have been built on the campus of Ke Kula Niihau o Kekaha Learning Center and Laboratory, in Kekaha.

Kawaikini, in Lihue, has grown a quarter-acre garden filled with tomatoes, peppers and native Hawaiian vegetables. The school also has an orchard filled with apple and citrus trees.

Malama Kauai focuses its efforts on the Hawaiian-focused charter schools because their students can benefit from it the most, Kealoha said.

“We want to serve more of the at risk communities; they are probably some of the more socially and economically disadvantaged pocket of the island,” Kealoha said.

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Information from: The Garden Island, https://thegardenisland.com/

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