Monday, March 9, 2009

Groceries: Kauai's Dirty Little Secret

With Hawaii's lush landscape, you might expect there to be an abundance of inexpensive, delectable produce in the markets here. Unfortunately, the produce aisles at Kauai's markets all look like war zones. Limp lettuce and bruised apples at out-of-sight prices only begin to tell the story.

Whether I'm on vacation or off, I usually enjoy grocery shopping. For me, shopping for food is an interesting way to learn more about an area and its people. If I were to judge Kauaians by their grocery stores, I'd say they've given up. Lemons sell for $1.99 EACH. (In California, they're usually four for a dollar.) Bananas are brought in from Ecuador at premium prices when a more flavorful local variety grows unharvested by the roadside. A single-serving bottle of V-8 juice is $2.75. Surely the merchants here don't think that consumers are happy and wouldn't go elsewhere if they could?

Fortunately, others are questioning the high prices, low quality, and dangers of Kauai's reliance on imported food. The Kauai Food Industry Forum, a group of concerned community members, estimates that 90 percent of the island's food supply is imported. Recently, the group held a conference to encourage open dialog about the problem. Foremost on their agenda is encouraging home and community gardens. To learn more, visit

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