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Eating Local

Foodland’s Eat Local Tuesdays initiative encourages customers to commit to eating local one day a week. and it’s getting Hawaii’s high schoolers to help

It’s a Tuesday afternoon at Foodland in Market City Shopping Center.

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Foodland's Eat Local Tuesdays initiative encourages customers to commit to eating local one day a week. And it's getting Hawaii's high schoolers to help. Pictured are (from left) Jacob Danao (Kapolei), Marivic Baoas (Kaimuki), Rachel Lee (Kalani), Foodland chairwoman/CEO Jenai S. Wall, Ha Nguyen (Kaimuki) and Nick Baggett (Kalani) | Nathalie Walker photo nwalker@midweek.com

Inside, Ha Nguyen and Marivic Baoas are setting up and preparing food samples. As they do, both interact with shoppers passing by, answer the occasional question and deal with one particularly difficult customer with poise.

For Hawaii’s largest locally owned supermarket, one would expect no less. But Nguyen and Baoas are no ordinary Foodland representatives. Both happen to be Kaimuki High School students. Together, with about 10 other students from Kaimuki High and more than 200 others throughout the state, they have joined Foodland for Eat Local Tuesdays.

It’s a new initiative the supermarket launched in January with a very simple premise: Help Foodland help Hawaii’s food sustainability.

“As a local company, we always like to look for whatever we can do to support our community,” says Foodland chairwoman and CEO Jenai S. Wall.

Make the Pledge

Supporting local is something of a no-brainer, according to Wall. On any given day, Foodland shoppers may select from nearly 3,000 unique local items.

But the company recognizes that identifying local products against a sea of outsourced competitors can be a challenge. And as many shoppers know too well, it sometimes means spending considerably more.

In response, and to serve as a bridge between the community and its farmers and producers, Foodland encourages customers to take its Eat Local Tuesdays pledge. In doing so, shoppers commit to eating local one day a week. In return, Foodland has made it easier to spot locally grown or made products at reduced prices daily, and with some added incentives.

On Tuesdays, in particular, shoppers who take the Eat Local Tuesdays pledge receive double Maika‘i points on all local items purchased. They also can select from Tuesday-only deli and poke specials that have, in the past, featured a Hawaiian plate lunch or Foodland’s lomi poke.

Each week, a Local Item of the Week — ground beef, for instance — also is highlighted, and new orange tags flag locally grown or made products.

“We felt that, if we combined the value in the store along with the ease of finding local products, it would be easy for people to make a commitment,” says Wall.

Over time, she is hopeful that Eat Local Tuesdays will encourage customers to buy local more frequently.

‘EAT LOCAL’

In developing Eat Local Tuesdays, Foodland knew that food samples would be key in making its customers aware of available local products. So, it decided to partner with Hawaii’s high schools.

Another no-brainer, when you consider that more than 95 percent of Foodland’s employees are graduates of the state’s public schools.

“We thought that it would be a win-win because we would have them helping us in the store, but they would learn about local products,” says Wall.

To assist with this, Foodland applied for a grant from Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA). Part of a “Buy Local, It Matters,” campaign that began roughly five years ago, it uses allocated funds through the state’s Agricultural Development and Food Security Special Fund.

Ultimately, awarded programs and activities ideally would decrease Hawaii’s dependence on imported goods and increase local agricultural production. With this in mind, HDOA solicited proposals that also would work to increase Hawaii’s consumption of local food, a project titled “EAT LOCAL.”