UHA Health Insurance invests in community-based, sustainable food initiative


Nicole Pasia


Hawaii’s physician-founded health plan, UHA Health Insurance, announced it would award $25,000 to the Hawai‘i Ag and Culinary Alliance to support agricultural stewardship programs. 


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The funding will support programs such as Mālama Hawai‘i, which encourages visitors to participate in experiences such as sustainable farming as a way of giving back to their time spent on the islands. 

“As a physician-founded organization, we know that access to nutritious, locally grown food is critical to each of us as individuals, but also essential for the overall health of our entire community,” UHA president and CEO Howard Lee explained in a statement. “We believe that the Hawai‘i Ag and Culinary Alliance is having a measurable impact on sustaining local agriculture through its educational programs and grants to other nonprofits that promote food production, the protection of ag lands and environmental sustainability.”

Denise Yamaguuchi founded the Hawai‘i Ag and Culinary Alliance 25 years ago in October 1996. 

“We would like to thank UHA Health Insurance for their generous contribution that will continue to support our local culinary industries and agricultural stewards in Hawai‘i,” she said in a statement. 

Investing in social determinants of health, such as housing, employment and economic security, and nutrition has been a key issue in Hawaii’s health care sphere. Some advocates, such as SPUR Food and Agriculture Policy Manager Katie Ettman, hope to eventually see these wraparound services standardized under Medicaid and other public assistance programs. 

“We have evidence to show that these interventions can not only improve health outcomes but they can also save health care dollars,” she said at the 2022 Hawaii State of Reform Health Policy Conference. “So when we think about the social determinants of health, we think food access and food security are really big on that list.”