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Celebrating Farm to School with Local ‘Ulu Beef Stew

October 10, 2018
By: Stephanie Loui

This month, public schools throughout Hawaiʻi are putting a delicious, local and seasonally abundant product on the lunchline: ‘Ulu! Also known as breadfruit, ʻulu is an important staple throughout the Pacific, celebrated for its many uses and most famously, its generous fruiting season. As this month’s feature for the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education's ‘Aina Pono “Harvest of the Month” program, ‘Ulu Beef Stew is a timely and exciting addition for Farm to School Month.

Even much of the the beef served in this month’s stew is locally sourced! Members of the Hawaiʻi Cattlemen’s Council and the Hawaiʻi Beef Industry Council will be providing the locally raised meat in the student lunches on Hawaiʻi Island, Kauaʻi, Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi.

Thanks to an amazing partnership with the Hawaiʻi ‘Ulu Producers Cooperative (HUPC), this will be the second ‘ulu showcase in public school lunchrooms. After the success of last school year’s ‘ulu, kalua pig, and spinach burrito, school officials were eager to demonstrate the versatility of ‘ulu with a second debut. With the help of HUPC—who in its first two years of operation, harvested 53,000 pounds of ‘ulu—schools will be piloting ‘ulu beef stew with the hope that students will develop an appreciation and taste for locally grown food. HUPC currently has 50 member farms and will likely continue to grow, allowing farmers to provide ‘ulu year-round through their collection of varieties and processing methods.

Considered a fairly seamless starch replacement for imported foods like potatoes and rice, ʻulu is a healthy complex carbohydrate with a lot of potential. Firm and mild flavored or ripe and sweet, ‘ulu is an ongoing experiment for chefs, practitioners, and homecooks looking to stretch the limits of this flexible starch. From hummus to pancakes, to chips and even flour, ‘ulu is a crucial key crop to increasing Hawaiʻi’s food security in the face of climate change and growing populations. It is no wonder that ʻulu trees are emerging across farms and backyard plots all over the state!

As the ‘Aina Pono Hawaiʻi Farm to School program continues to move its message across the state, communities are hopeful that other institutions will also begin to help shift the food system. Understood as “righteous meal,” the name ʻAina Pono reflects the larger movement being undertaken by many stakeholders throughout the state, deeply committed to providing healthy, local, and accessible food for all.

To test out this month’s ‘Ulu Beef Stew Recipe, click here.