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$90K in grants aim to make a 'big impact' for Kauaʻi farming education and longevity

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Mālama Kauaʻi has partnered with the county's Office of Economic Development to distribute $90,000 in grants to support and expand locally produced food.

One grant program aims to help expand the operations of farmers who sell trough food access channels, such as the food bank or programs that utilize the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Double Up Food Bucks nutrition incentives.

The Farmers Enhancing Equitable Development program will distribute between seven to 20 mini-grants between $2,500 and $7,500.

"Even on the small grant end of $2,500, it doesn't seem like a lot. But that might allow you to put in a fence to protect your plot from being destroyed by pigs, or it might allow you to get a new small propagation or growing shed structure," said Megan Fox, executive director of Mālama Kauaʻi.

"On the larger side of things . . . that might be able to get somebody in on a farm freezer that will help them preserve the harvest that they're taking in."

The other grant program, Kauaʻi Farm to School, will distribute $40,000 to launch a pilot program for local schools. Mālama Kauaʻi is working with the state department of education for guidance on the program's operations.

Fox's organization is also working on building Kauaʻi's first food hub for farmers to process their produce and get technical assistance. The estimated $3.2 million project recently surpassed the halfway mark in the fundraising campaign.

"It's something everybody's wanted for over a decade, and it just never came to fruition," said Fox.

"It's going to make a huge impact, where it's going to allow us to scale into more Farm to School, Farm to Hospital programs, and really just help our farmers keep more of their food on island."

More information can be found at https://malamakauai.org/.

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at charlow@hawaiipublicradio.org or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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