Cultivating A Future

From West Hawaii Today: article by Cameron Miculka, photo by Laura Ruminski.

KEALAKEKUA — Standing behind a low heap of earth near the boundary of North and South Kona, Michael Kramer, Usha Kilpatrick Kotner and Gretchen Ana Currie Ramirez each pushed an ’o’o into the soil and pulled it back out, officially breaking ground on the new community kitchen near Kona Pacific Public Charter School.

“This is a major step forward for us to be able to really provide this type of service to our students,” said Kramer, president of the Friends of Kona Pacific Public Charter School.

The $1.9 million facility is funded by two legislative capital improvement project grants-in-aid as well as grants from private foundations and state agencies as well as an internal campaign, according to the Friends of Kona Pacific Public Charter School. The 2,800 square-foot building will include two kitchens along with walk-in refrigerators as well as office space, dry storage, restrooms and covered lanais.

One of the kitchens will support Kona Pacific Public Charter Schools’ WHOLE Foodservice, which in addition to providing meals for students at that school also provides meals for education and service providers Punana Leo o Kona, Parents and Children Together and Family Support Hawaii. During the summer, it also serves up to 300 meals a day in its lunch program and between 85 and 90 daily lunches for the county’s Summer Fun recreation program.

Another kitchen will be rented out to farmers and others in the community to give them an opportunity to create value-added products, both increasing the supply of local products and opening new avenues of entrepreneurship for local residents.

“We thought this was an innovative approach to have two side-by-side kitchens so that we could serve both constituencies at the same time,” Kramer said.

He added those who want to use the kitchen when it opens will be able to rent it by the hour and also said they interviewed a lot of farmers to determine what they needed to elevate their produce into something they could put on the market.

 Among those seeing opportunity in the new kitchen is Elizabeth Kilpatrick, owner of Konacopia Farms, an organic farm.

During a meeting for farmers to discuss ways they could make use of the kitchen, Kilpatrick said, she spoke about potentially drying mangoes.

“We’re just figuring so many value-added products now that our farm is mature,” she said.

The facility could also potentially help curb food waste, she said, saying it could give farmers, such as those who grow citrus, a way to process crops that can’t be sold for one reason or another.

Looking forward, Kramer said the broader vision is to cultivate at least 10 acres of the property for food production at the site of the campus, feeding not only the students but families and others in the community.

“We see a surplus, a bounty of food here that we could really support a lot of people,” he said, “as well as make it possible for people to create businesses with value-added products.”

And for some in the community, the kitchen is as much about the region’s past as it is about the future.

“When something like this happens, you look to the children, but you look to those that came before and how they would look on this,” said Friends of Kona Pacific Public Charter School board member Rafael Ramirez. “This was coffeeland; this was a pasture. It’s been many things; it’s had many uses.”

Building the facility, he said, rejuvenates the land, particularly by bringing youth back to the land — “cultivating our youth and teaching our youth how to cultivate,” he said.


Why Routines Matter

Children who have nourishing routines at home show better executive function than those with an unpredictable home life. Routines require impulse control and focus, so the very practice of executing routines strengthens our capacity for learning.

While predictable structure can help families gain quality time, researchers have also found that children who experience regular evening routines learn better in school.

Harvard graduate and book author of Prime Time Parenting, Heather Miller, says: “In the digital age, when the constant stream of devices so frequently interrupts the flow of home life and face-to-face interaction, routines at home are more important than ever — especially ones that involve turning off those devices entirely for limited amounts of time.”

– from Waldorf Today, the official website for the Association of Waldorf School of North America,

After-School Nature Enrichment Program

The Nature Enrichment Program (which was formerly called the After Care Program) is our signature, nature-based, after-school program at Kona Pacific. The program is focused on connecting children to nature through the use of ancient techniques, such as Coyote Mentoring, the 8 Shields Path, and primitive wilderness skills (i.e., shelter building, fire making, and ethnobotany) to activate the unique gifts of the individual children. Enrollment for the Nature Enrichment Program is on a first-come basis, with students going on a waitlist once full.

Mariah Mann is the leader of the program, and she brings her eight years of experience with Kona Pacific and her lifetime of pursuing connection to nature to her role of overseeing the program. She is also the owner of Journeys in the Na‘au, where she offers deep nature connection experiences on the Big Island. She is surrounded by a wealth of experience in her teammates Steve Fredlund, Angelo Pugliese, Nick Kern, Alli Craig, Johannah Duff, and Cara Moreau, all of whom bring their own specific specialties to the program and love connecting children to nature.

The typical rhythm of the Nature Enrichment Program’s day begins with sign in after school is released. Then the kids are led to the basecamp up in the woods to the beat of a drum. Once there, they repeat a chant where they bless the land and the elements and ask permission to enter the forest. Then the leaders “fox walk” the kids into the forest where they find a place to circle up, become “of one mind” and then proceed to individually give thanks for something in their life. The kids are then sent out to find a place in the forest where they spend some time doing their “Sit Spot,” where they spend time alone with nature (still supervised), which is one of the core routines of the program. After about ten minutes they are called back in and discuss what was experienced during their time with nature. The day then usually proceeds into snack time, some free time playing in the woods and sensory awareness building games. Toward the end of the day, the kids are brought down closer to pick up where they practice skills, do crafts, and talk story until they are picked up by their parents. The kids are usually dirty, tired and happy by the time their day is done.

This is a one-of-a-kind program in the Hawaiian Islands, and Kona Pacific Public Charter School is very excited to be able to offer this program to their students.

Fruit Tree Planting – Thursday 9-18

KPPCS has received an award from the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation (FTPF) for 10 citrus trees to be planted near the school garden. The foundation’s staff will be at our school on Thursday, September 18, to deliver the trees and assist us with planting. Please come help if you can! The tree planting event will be from 1:30–2:45 pm and will include the 7th grade students and school staff members.

FTPF is an award-winning international nonprofit dedicated to planting fruitful trees and plants to alleviate world hunger, combat climate change, strengthen communities, and improve the surrounding air, soil, and water. Their work takes place in school and community gardens across the United States, and in Kenya, India, Uganda and other international sites.

Please contact Jacqueline Cramer, our gardening teacher, for more information:

Food Truck Meal Service Comes to Kona Pacific!

Among the many changes coming to Kona Pacific this year is the new food service trailer that will roll onto campus this week.

This exciting new development follows the removal of the school’s previous food service tent, in preparation for the construction of the new $1.8 million community kitchen on the 38-acre property where the school is located, and a new school building on campus.

“The food truck concept came out of the necessity to create an alternative way to serve meals to our students,” says Kona Pacific’s nutrition program manager, Kelly Shehan. “But it also provides for some inspiring new opportunities.”

Kona Pacific middle school students will be very involved with the project, starting with naming the food trailer and helping to plan the art and design for its exterior.

Future prospects also include priceless learning opportunities for the middle schoolers to learn the academic and real-life relevant skills involved with growing harvesting, preparing and selling healthy, creative menus .

Kelly is putting together a team to spruce up the food trailer and ensure that it’s in full compliance with all regulations and ready to serve the children.

“Kona Pacific is already well known for its extraordinary commitment to community nutrition,” she says. “And with this new program asset, we have a great opportunity to expand that commitment into new areas.”

The school’s three temporary tent structures – the foodservice tent and two multiuse tents – have been removed prior to the launch of the construction activities, which are slated to begin before the end of August. The anticipated completion date of the new community kitchen, which will house both the school’s community foodservice and a new value-added kitchen for local farmers, is in February 2019.

Farm to School Success in Hawaii

USDA Blog, 11-13-17

– Posted by Anne Marie Buron, Emerson Hunger Fellow, Food and Nutrition Service and Julianna Arnett, Farm to School Regional Lead, Western Regional Office, Food and Nutrition Service

It takes the right amount of water and sunlight for seeds to grow into a thriving garden. So too, it takes the right mix of factors to integrate local foods into communities. Some of these factors include committed stakeholders, planning, collaboration, and financial resources.

Hawaii offers two successful examples of how federal funds can seed local agencies in the cultivation of their community food system goals. Kona Pacific Public Charter School & Friends of Kona Pacific Public Charter School (Kona Pacific) and The Kohala Center, Inc. (TKC) collaborate to advance their shared goals of improving student and community health, the regional agricultural economy, ecological understanding and a connection to native Hawaiian culture.

In 2011, Kona Pacific was awarded a $3 million direct loan through the USDA Rural Development Community Facilities Program. The project financed the purchase and expansion of a 38-acre parcel of land with an organic farm and a small elementary school campus. The space emphasizes Kona Pacific’s educational focus on agriculture. An on-site garden serves as a platform for multidisciplinary lessons and a place where students grow crops using traditional cultivation techniques.

TKC, a partner of Kona Pacific, is a community-based institute for research, conservation and education. In 2014, TKC was funded through an Agricultural Marketing Service Specialty Crop Block Grant to help schools and farmers maximize the use of the USDA’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, available to high-need elementary schools as a source and market for local foods.

TKC further accelerated buying local foods through a 2015 USDA Farm to School Grant, a competitive grant administered by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service to entities across the country to advance farm to school initiatives, and a 2015 USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant. TKC used the grants to develop reports on sourcing local food for child nutrition programs in Hawaii, build school and farmer connections, launch planning for the Hawaii Island Charter School Food Hui with Kona Pacific, create a garden-based curriculum, participate in the Hawaii Lieutenant Governor’s Farm to School Advisory Group and strengthen the capacity and impact of the Hawaii Farm to School Hui, a network of farm to school stakeholders on each Hawaiian island advancing local food systems.

In 2016, Kona Pacific worked with the Hui to increase charter school participation in federal nutrition assistance programs through the National Institute of Food and Agricultures’ Community Food Project. Kona Pacific was also awarded a USDA Farm to School Grant to assess their 10 farm to school initiatives and develop an integrated farm to school action plan, which included financial sustainability.

As demonstrated by Kona Pacific and TKC, local food initiatives grow and flourish over time. Communities can strategically use federal resources to foster local food systems, economic opportunities and self-sufficiency. Each of these USDA programs was leveraged at a different time and with a different purpose, however, each investment supported the long-term goal of developing a locally controlled food system that supports both Hawaiian producers and citizens.

The 2018 Farm to School Grant Request for Application (RFA) is open through December 8, 2017. Since the grant program’s inception in 2013, USDA has invested more than $25 million in farm to school grants among 365 projects reaching more than 13 million students across all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. To learn more about this funding opportunity, visit

HĀ: Place-based Learning in the Hawaiian Context

In the 2017–18 school year, Kona Pacific began the process of incorporating a new educational framework developed by the Office of Hawaiian Education, established by the Hawaii DOE in 2015.

The Office of Hawaiian Education started with a question: What would an educational system centered on core Hawaiian values look like?

The result of the discussion and research arising out this question was the development of Nā Hopena Aʻo (HĀ), a learning framework rooted in Hawaiiʻs indigenous context. HĀ (pronounced ʻhah”), meaning “breath” or “to breathe” in Hawaiian, supports a holistic learning process in which outcomes are meant to be demonstrated by everyone within the schools – students, teachers, staff and administrators.

Nā Hopena A‘o or HĀ are six outcomes to be strengthened in every student over the course of their K-12 learning journey, supported by faculty and staff who are models of behaviors that illustrate for students what these outcomes might look like in practice.

These outcomes include a strengthened sense of Belonging, Responsibility, Excellence, Aloha, Total Well-Being, and of Hawaiʻi. When taken together, these outcomes become the core BREATH that can be drawn on for strength and stability through out school and beyond.

At Kona Pacific, we are exploring the implementation of the HĀ framework at many levels of school activities and operations: in the daily main lesson, in specialty classes, on the playground, in the garden, and in the office and operations spheres of the school. Professional development days and work with Kumu Keala Ching will strengthen our capacity to understand and implement the program.

Many aspects of HĀ already exist at Kona Pacific, and we seek to continue to build and model a supportive learning environment that nurtures the conditions that will strengthen the six outcomes as a whole. Stay tuned for more information about our HĀ journey!


Nutrition Programs Earn Another Award for Kona Pacific

– by Pat Gee, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 9/24/17

Kona Pacific Public Charter School, a pioneer in serving free breakfast in certain Hawaii public schools, was recognized on Friday for cooking and delivering free lunches to hungry kids in West Hawaii during the summer recess since 2015.

School and project director Chris Hecht received the Good Apple Award from the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law & Economic Justice at the 6th Annual Artists for Appleseed Dinner, Art Exhibition and Sale at a private club.

Hecht co-founded Kona Pacific, the first public school in 2008 to offer a Waldorf education, and was the prime mover behind the free breakfast and summer nutrition programs. The Kealakekua school serves about 240 students from kindergarten through eighth grade, more than half of them qualifying for free or reduced-priced meals, a key indicator of poverty levels.

The school was the first in the state to offer a universal breakfast program in 2014, with assistance from Appleseed. It paved the way for all students at 52 public schools in low-income areas to receive free breakfast and lunch, regardless of their family’s ability to pay, in the 2017-18 school year.

In 2015, when Hecht learned that feeding programs would be suspended for June and July during the summer break, “I couldn’t sleep at night thinking about kids going hungry,” he said. He and his development team obtained a $28,000 grant from Walmart and bought two used vans to deliver the food they made to kids at six sites, include canoe club practices and low-income housing complexes, knowing that the successful programs were the ones that went to where children congregated, Hecht added.

“Each day of the program, Kona Pacific prepared and distributed 125 healthy, federally reimbursable lunches to homeless and at-risk children in West Hawaii,” said a state Hawaii Child Nutrition Programs (HCNP) report. “Over the six weeks of program operation, more than 4,300 meals were served to children that otherwise would have gone hungry.”

Jennifer Dang, an HCNP coordinator under the state Department of Education, said in an interview, “What makes Kona Pacific unique is it is the only school or sponsor (of a feeding program) that will go to where the kids are, rather than asking the kids to come to them.” On Hawaii Island in low-income districts, the national school lunch program is usually extended during the summer, but in 2015, there were no feeding programs available in Kona until Kona Pacific stepped up.

On the average in 2016, the mobile program visited 10 to 12 sites, feeding 312 children per day (10,235 total); and in 2017, there were nine sites, nourishing 226 per day (7,659 total), the DOE report said. The program has served more than 22,000 lunches since its launch.

In an interview, Hecht said: “I’m grateful to my school board and my team for letting me follow my heart and feed hungry kids, and I do it only because I feel I need to. I think the honor goes to our kitchen staff that goes to work at 4 every morning. … I have the luxury of thinking of these ideas and helping start them up, but it’s all those folks who are the real heroes for the children, and this award is for them.”

Hecht said he is carrying on a family tradition of nutrition and public health advocacy, so he was sensitive to filling the needs of the “under-resourced” Kona District.

“Thinking about children going hungry, that’s a bummer. … We have a crisis here in our state,” he said, where kids are coming to school hungry and can’t concentrate on academics or control their behavior.

“I see nutrition as an important part of public health, especially in Hawaii where we have such a prevalence of so-called lifestyle diseases, like coronary artery disease and diabetes — those are all because people eat high-fat, high-sugar diets and don’t exercise. There’s some genetics (causing the diseases) but it’s mostly choices people make, and if we can reach children and teach them ways they can eat healthy and incorporate movement in their daily life and drink lots of water instead of sugary, soda things, we’re setting them on a course for a healthier life,” he said.

Dang said Kona Pacific is reimbursed through a U.S. Department of Agriculture program at a rural rate of $4.48 (during the regular school session, the rate is $3.95 per lunch)

Kona Pacific Receives Kukui Award for Farm to School Programs

At the 2017 Hawaii Agriculture Conference and Farm to School Symposium in Honolulu August 29–30, it was announced that Kona Pacific Public Charter School was selected for recognition as a valued leader in Hawaii’s Farm to School movement.

Robyn Pfahl, the coordinator of Hawaii’s statewide Farm to School Initiative, said “We are excited to honor the amazing farm to school (F2S) connections Kona Pacific Public Charter School (KPPCS) has made through a substantial school garden and food farm program and innovative food service programs.  KPPCS’s strong vision of place-based hands-on learning woven with Hawaiian Culture and sustainable agriculture has created inspiring programs that are shining light on a more direct, locally sourced, community driven way to educate and feed the keiki.

“The school garden learning opportunities and integration of an on-site school food farm and certified school meal and community kitchen are exemplary opportunities to connect keiki with the `āina, farmers with markets, and community producers with resources.  With KPPCS’s passion to source meals through local growers and strengthen food security in their community, KPPCS has become a visionary with the development of a broad-based strategic community partnership that focuses on the food and nutrition needs of charter school students across Hawai`i Island.

“By taking the initiative to start a charter school foodservices hui, KPPCS has offered an opportunity to address the administrative burdens of subsidized school meal compliance while combining smaller purchases to achieve better economies of scale with local producers and distributors.  KPPCS’s farm to school programs are a shining light to inspire others trying to make farm to school connections.”

The state Farm to School Initiative was spearheaded by the Lt. Governor’s office and is a partnership of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, the Department of Education and The Kohala Center. The annual Kukui Award (light, learning and illumination) honors an exemplary school or organization and its work in the field of integrated farm to school activities.

Kayla Strom, our Nutrition Programs Manager, accepted the award on behalf of Kona Pacific. Kayla also participated in a symposium panel discussion on foodservice procurement, and Shannon Ramirez, our FarmCorps Hawaii (AmeriCorps) program director, shared a visual “poster presentation” about the FarmCorps Hawai‘i program.

The conference and symposium was is an exciting opportunity to showcase our work at Kona Pacific to the leaders of the sustainable agriculture and farm to school movements in Hawai’i.