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The Desperate Need for a Food and Resilience Strategy for Hawaiʻi

If it is true that “lessons in life will be repeated until they are learned,” then it is best we start learning because our clock is ticking. COVID-19 exposed Hawai‘i’s shortfalls in a way no one could ever imagine. Yes, Hawai‘i has endured hurricanes, tsunamis and tsunami scares, volcanic eruptions and even partial government shutdowns, but the global pandemic confirmed a problem we’ve known about for decades – the desperate need for a food and resilience strategy for Hawai‘i.

On Thursday, May 26 at 7:30 pm, PBS Hawai‘i dissects this complex topic in KĀKOU: Hawai‘i’s Town Hall, The Future of Our Food. We will explore why we are not prepared and why our infrastructure must evolve. Hawai‘i is vulnerable to harbor disruption caused by natural and manmade disasters.

The sheer dependence of Hawai‘i’s population on goods brought in by ship and the limited on-island inventory mean Hawai‘i could not sustain shipping interruptions beyond just a few days.

In the weeks before we invite diverse voices to our 90-minute conversation, PBS HAWAI‘I PRESENTS will feature two programs that speak to the subject.

Homegrown Hawai‘i is directed, shot and edited by Lynn Beittel of Visionary Video, a Hawai‘i Island-based film company. The documentary, produced by AgriLogic Consulting of Texas, airs Thursday, May 12 at 8:30 pm. It investigates why Hawai‘i imports an estimated 85 to 90 percent of the food consumed here and asks, “Can we reverse this?” We will hear from farmers and ranchers from all four counties and learn about the risks, challenges and rewards of farming and ranching in Hawai‘i.

Then on Thursday May 19 at 9:00 pm, PBS HAWAI‘I PRESENTS features Scaling Up: Hawai‘i’s Food Future, coproduced by ThinkTech Hawai‘i and Making Waves Films LLC and directed by Hawai‘i filmmaker Kimberlee Bassford. The documentary examines Hawai‘i’s overdependence on imported food and its reliance on a tourism-based economy. Local farmers, entrepreneurs, elected officials and government leaders share their ideas on how to increase the homegrown food supply and better support agricultural exports to help diversify Hawai‘i’s economy.

It is time we own this moment and build off the strengthening of longtime partnerships and the cultivation of new relationships. We must be self-sustaining and our food systems in Hawai‘i must emerge. The COVID-19 crisis confirmed our vulnerabilities but it also provided opportunities for innovation. Lessons in life are only lessons, until we learn. We need to respond urgently in a productive and collaborative way.

“Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

With respect and aloha,

Ron Mizutani and the PBS Hawai‘i family