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Lifestyle // Good Neighbors
Christina O’Connor

Amy Brinker

The way Amy Brinker sees it, the food system in Hawaii currently stands on something of a tipping point.

“People are realizing that convenience and mass production – elements in our current food system – have a great impact,” she says, “and that our food choices are impacting other areas of our lives in a very significant way.”

As president of the Hawaii Food Policy Council’s governing board, Brinker works to create a healthy, sustainable food system through education, analysis and advocacy. HFPC is a collective of stakeholders that include farmers, consumers and policy makers. Since 2011, the group has hosted farm lunches, led workshops, supported related legislation and partnered with a range of organizations.

“A healthy, sustainable food system is one where we value and respect the work of those working the land, we value and respect the practices of food production,” she explains. “And we value and respect the freedom to choose what kinds of foods make sense for ourselves, but also have open dialogue about what impacts food choices have on our community.”

For Brinker, getting involved with HFPC provided an intersection between her backgrounds in culinary arts and law. After graduating from William S. Richardson School of Law at UH Manoa with certificates in Native Hawaiian law and environmental law, Brinker joined KYA Sustainability Studio. As KYA’s director of policy, she helps entities from small businesses to large agencies understand and implement sustainability into their operations.

According to Brinker, everyone has the power to drive food system changes – and even individual food choices have an impact. For anyone who wants to learn more, HFPC hosts a full council meeting at 6 p.m. Aug. 14 at Fresh Cafe.

“We want to have people who are interested in understanding where we have been and where we are going, and those who are interested in being a part of that,” Brinker says of the meeting. “We want to find out what they are interested in, what kinds of topics they are really passionate about.”

Currently, HFPC is in the process of launching two new projects – a watchdog group that will share updates on policy, and a think tank that will disseminate information regarding food self-sufficiency.

In addition to her work with HFPC, Brinker is involved with Honolulu Living Building Challenge Collaborative and State Water Conservation Advisory Board.

“I came from a family that believes deeply in giving back to your community and volunteering. My grandmother is the type who, when you would come home from a long day of work, she would say, ‘Now what?’” she says. “I try to appreciate my time and make the best use of it.”

For more on HFPC, visit hawaiifoodpolicycouncil.org.

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