Working towards food system change

Aloha! I am Sydney Millerd and I am a new social media intern at Purple Maiʻa for the summer. I am from Waipahu and was born and raised here on Oʻahu. I am a proud Waipahu High School graduate, and just this past spring, I graduated from the University of Hawaiʻi — West Oʻahu (UHWO) with a Bachelor of Applied Science degree with a concentration in Sustainable Community Food Systems (SCFS) and a Bachelor of Social Sciences degree with a concentration in Political Science.

As last semester was my final semester of my undergraduate studies at UHWO, I was required to complete a final senior practicum. I was fortunate to not have to search far and wide for a practicum project because the opportunity to participate in the inaugural Hawaiʻi Food+ Policy internship cohort, under the direction of Purple Maiʻa, presented itself! This was my introduction to the world of Purple Maiʻa.

As a group of UHWO SCFS students and recent graduates, Food+ Policy strives to keep the community updated on food and agriculture policy in Hawaiʻi and specifically endorses and advocates for legislative measures that support the development of a more sustainable and resilient food system by engaging the legislative processes. Through our various media platforms created, we aim to serve as an up-to-date hub for food and agriculture-related bills during the state legislative session with the hope that members of the greater community will actively support the measures too. This was the perfect practicum experience for me as it was an ideal blend of my two degrees.

“Workforce development” being one of Purple Maiʻa’s core pillars, my Food+ Policy internship experience was definitely not short of it. I got the chance to gain real-world experience in bill tracking, lobbying, communications, and just how to engage in the political process as an everyday citizen. I was particularly in charge of tracking bills relating to a sugar-sweetened beverage fee and even was able to publish an op-ed on the measures on our Food+ Policy Medium. In this internship cohort, I was also a lead on creating and managing our website and social media platforms. As of now, my career goal is to go into sustainable initiative work, with an organization like Hawaiʻi Green Growth, or be a food system changemaker in some capacity; and especially in this day and age, these career-related skills, I developed through my Food+ Policy experience, will be important in that type of work.

Not only did my Food+ Policy experience help me to grow as a young food system changemaker but it has led me to an opportunity to continue to foster that growth — this summer social media internship! I am excited to be a part of the Purple Maiʻa ʻohana for the next couple of weeks and support the organization’s efforts in any way that I can. I know this internship experience will empower me to continue to “find the purple’’ in myself.

Living in Hawaiʻi my entire life, I hold a special connection to Purple Maiʻa’s mission: to inspire and educate the next generation of culturally grounded, community serving technology makers and problem solvers. I understand how being culturally grounded in Native Hawaiian values is important in the islands, and is something that can (and should) be applied around the world. Although I am not necessarily into creating new technology, being a food system problem solver, I must utilize technology (social media, coding for statistical analysis, etc.) to support food system transformation efforts. Meanwhile, it is important to remain culturally grounded in this type of work because when it comes down it, one of the most (if not, THE most) important Native Hawaiian values — aloha — is at the core (aloha ʻāina, showing aloha to one another, etc.).

Furthermore, rooted in Purple Maiʻa’s mission and in synergy with my passion for food system transformation, the goal of my internship social media campaign is to promote the technology, entrepreneurial projects, and innovation created by Purple Maiʻa haumāna that relate to building a more sustainable, resilient, and socially just food system in Hawaiʻi while educating the public about food system issues and efforts.