The University of Hawaii at Hilo and its campus dining services provider Sodexo have launched a “Local First” initiative in order to cultivate relationships with island farmers. The program involves on-site visits by Sodexo chefs and management to local produce farmers, ranchers and seafood harvesters to gain full understanding of best practices and seasonal availability of local foods.

“The insights gained are instrumental in planning a fresh, varied, and sustainable menu,” says Bridget Awong, Sodexo General Manager for the school. “The University is extremely enthusiastic about our sustainable, culinary contributions.”

According to Awong, students, faculty, and staff appreciate the fresh, seasonal offerings and have come to know local vendors and food suppliers through Sodexo’s Annual Food Festival held every October. The festival provides a platform for local food producers to introduce different varieties of produce, offer new product samplings, and taste test new recipes.

“This has created a fun and informative community event that instills a connection to the source of our food,” Awong says. “Our ‘Local First’ initiative has grown to be a community asset and the University takes pride in these achievements.”