Service Member Tasia Yamamura Writes about Youth Empowerment and Politics of Food in Hawai’i for Food First

Colonization has negatively impacted indigenous communities’ health, wealth, and culture around the world—and Hawai‘i is no exception. As a FoodCorps service member with MA‘O Organic Farms, I have the privilege of working alongside visionary colleagues who are working to re-establish Hawaii‘s ancestral abundance.

Mala ‘Ai Opio—which translates to “the youth food garden” or MA’O for short—is a youth empowerment farm and social enterprise in Wai‘anae on the west side of O‘ahu. Our mission is to empower youth in the Wai‘anae community through leadership training, economic development and secondary education, while producing quality organic produce in a culturally appropriate, socially just and environmentally sustainable way. The farm covers the cost of tuition for its student interns to earn an associate degree with a certificate in community food systems, while also providing opportunities for them to learn by stewarding the land. It is a space for students of this community to practice Hawaiian values through organic farming in a way that seeks to transform the local economy into one that is more just and equitable.