CTAHR’s Kauai Master Gardeners received a first place ranking in the Community Service category for the International Master Gardener Search for Excellence for their Village Harvest gleaning program. They will celebrate the achievement of this world-wide recognition by presenting on the program at the International Master Gardener Conference in the summer.
Joshua Silva, the coordinator for the CTAHR Kauai Master Gardener program, chuckled that, “Upon hearing the news of this award, everyone was speechless and big-eyed; who would’ve thought our program in the middle of the Pacific would win something on an international level.” He continued, “The Kauai Master Gardener volunteers take initiative and are passionate about serving their communities in areas such as gardening and food security, so hearing of their award made me happy and proud of the work they are doing for the people of Kauai.”
The gleaning pilot project began in September 2014 with a grant from the HMSA Foundation and a partnership with Malama Kauai staff in the Master Gardener trainee class that year. The partnership has since harvested over 14,000 pounds of produce, which was donated to schools, afterschool programs, and food banks across the island.
One of the core recipients of the produce, the Hawaii Food Bank’s Kauai Branch, distributed over 1.3 million pounds of food last fiscal year, but only 9 percent of that was fresh produce. They are hungry for more. “We are excited about our relationship with the Village Harvest program and look forward to receiving and distributing more healthy, island-fresh produce to our community,” said Wes Perreira, the Kauai Warehouse Supervisor.
The pilot program is now expanding into a full-time, 3-year program, aiming to build a sustainable community-based gleaning network across the island. They have raised over $40,000 in funding for the first year of the program from The Bill Healy Foundation, Atherton Family Foundation, Ulupono Initiative, Light Shines from Within Fund at RSF, Sidney Stern Memorial Trust, Matson, Friends of Hawaii Charities, and several individual donors. Some of the new program purchases will include a delivery truck, food processing and storage equipment for schools and afterschool programs, and more harvesting tools and food safety supplies for volunteers.
Through AmeriCorps’ Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) program, the team is also onboarding a full-time service member to expand the program. Tuula Perry, a Maui native and experienced gleaning program coordinator with AmeriCorps, starts on October 31st. Perry is excited to begin the expansion. “Sharing excess food with our neighbors is the simplest way to build social equity and realize a local food system on the island of Kauai,” she says. “Food is power. Not only does it dictate how we spend our time and money, but it forms our culture and builds community.”
As a part of the expansion, Perry is tasked with outreaching to the community to provide education and information on agricultural waste, food security, and volunteer opportunities within the program.