Debbie Millikan Sky Miyamoto
Early on a summer morning, a group of fourththrough sixth-grade students at Waikiki Elementary School make their way over to Debbie Millikan at the school’s garden. One of the boys from the group shouts, “Are we going to make pesto pasta today?” Yes, Millikan responds, explaining that they will pick basil from the garden to prepare the dish. She tells them that their meal will include a salad, salsa made from garden tomatoes, and eggplant. The kids cheer.
It’s not often that kids this age get excited about fresh organic vegetables, but here at Waikiki Food Farm they do.
Millikan, along with Sky Miyamoto, is the co-director of Waikiki Food Farm, which they started in the schoolyard in 2009. The 1,300-square-foot garden includes Japanese heirloom tomatoes, squash, corn, cucumbers, beans, eggplant and fruit trees all of which are grown organically.
“The underlying motivation is for kids to see where real food comes from so they can make that connection from farm to table,” Millikan says.
The co-directors were inspired to start the food farm after observing the lack of knowledge about where food comes from today. “One hundred years ago, it was a part of a person’s culture to farm and grow their own food,” says Miyamoto. “And for today’s youth, it’s kind of become a dead culture.” Millikan, whose children attend Waikiki Elementary, adds that kids today grow up amid processed and fast foods, resulting in increasing rates of childhood obesity.
And so the two who had met a few years back at a community garden teamed up to help give the kids a firsthand connection to the food they eat. Students do a little bit of everything in the garden, from helping maintain the mulch to harvesting the food once it’s ready for cooking a meal using the vegetables. In the last year, Millikan and Miyamoto also have implemented a program called Organic Farmer of the Week. Each day, a student is chosen to pick food from the garden, take it home and record what they cook.
Millikan also has been instrumental in Project Green Waikiki, a sustainability plan that has already helped to install a recycling bin on campus and pass legislation for green cleaning supplies in school.
The co-directors are delighted to see that the kids are learning to farm organically. “Most importantly, they are truly inspired to harvest, cook and consume the foods they grow,” Millikan says. Working with kids, they say, is a good place to start. They hope that the students involved in the program will continue to incorporate these habits into their everyday lives.
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