Growing and Cooking with Family

By Jack Kiyonaga, Community Reporter 

Photo courtesy of Heather Greenwood.

Now in its fourth year, `Ohana Garden and Grindz teaches kids ages 8 and up about gardening, cooking and sustainability. It provides keiki the opportunity to work with their families to create a meal from dirt to dinner plate. 

The `Ohana Garden and Grindz project, recently awarded a USDA Rural Health and Safety Education Grant, grew out of meetings with Molokai homestead families. Families wanted to pass along a love of agriculture as well as educate children in kitchen safety and practice, explained `Ohana Garden and Grindz facilitator Heather Greenwood, an extension agent for the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the principal investigator for this most recent grant. 

Because the project started here on Molokai, Greenwood believes that it is able to address “the needs of the real community.” 

During monthly cohorts, `Ohana Garden and Grindz holds online teaching sessions Saturday mornings, focusing on two meals per week. Meals range from pancakes and scrambled eggs to saimin salad and skillet lasagna. 

All of this occurs without any cost to families. 

“We supply everything,” said head chef Angela Managano 

Prior to starting the sessions, families will pick up extensive gardening supplies, mature plants, cooking equipment and even an electric skillet — made possible by generous donations from Sust’ainable Molokai and Molokai Auto Parts. Families keep the skillet and gardening equipment even after the classes have ended.  

Families’ responses to the program have been very positive. 

“We loved the cooking especially and having the right tools that made cooking fun,” explained one family participant. 

“Having the class on Zoom was awesome and comfortable,” said another family.

With expansion of the program on to almost every Hawaiian island, `Ohana Garden and Grindz is helping more kids and families than ever before. 

“Now we’re trying to dig deeper and extend further and reach other families who haven’t done it yet,” explained Managano. 

One of the “happy, unintended consequences” of COVID was the ability to “open up to a larger more holistic family approach,” said Greenwood.  

Impressively, while many institutions found online education to be difficult, `Ohana Garden and Grindz has thrived with it. The key has been the hands-on, “experiential learning” approach, according to Greenwood.  

At `Ohana Garden and Grindz, kitchen safety and supplies are turned into color coordinated games. Zoom sessions become family cook-offs. 

“We address the children,” explained Managano. 

Aside from just educating keiki, `Ohana Garden and Grindz seeks to involve the family as a whole.

It’s “about developing healthy skills and family skills together,” said Managano. 

`Ohana Garden and Grindz also seeks to foster a sustainable relationship with the land and food.

“This is planting seeds,” said Managano, both literally and figuratively, for the future.   

In this way, the program is a response to what Managano refers to as the “what are you going to do when the ship doesn’t come in” question. The hope is that `Ohana Garden and Grindz will help kids be more comfortable working with gardens and sustainable approaches to food.

The next `Ohana Garden and Grindz Molokai cohort will begin on Nov. 30, with following sessions coming as early as January 2023. Families can sign up by contacting Managano at angelchef.ogg@gmail.com


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