Ways to the Heart: Food and Foodways in Hawai'i



3 class periods (based on 50-minute class periods)



  • Students will map how foods (plants and animals) came to the local landscape/environment.
  • Students will describe how those foods (plants and animals) were adopted into the culture and traditions.
  • Students will explain how these foods have become part of today’s cultural feasts.
  • Students will identify foods used in traditional celebrations.
  • Students will prepare a mini celebration feast.

Learning Center by Kealoha Kelekolio and Rona Rodenhurst of Bishop Museum, Honolulu

The Hawaiian Islands were peopled by migrations from other Pacific islands. These first voyagers brought food plants and animals. Prior to the arrival of man to the islands all plants and animals come by air, wind or upon the waves of the ocean or on the birds that flew there. This Learning Center explores how food resources and the evolving culture become identifiers of culture today. The lesson culminates with the preparation and eating of a modern adaptation of a lū‘au feast.



Enduring Understandings:

  • Food serves as a means for survival, to build community, to mark cultural identity, and to provide comfort.
  • Our cultures and foodways have changed over time, and these changes have affected our lives in various ways.
  • People celebrate in various ways and for various things. Celebrations mark events in the everyday lives of peoples. The preparation of foods outside the ordinary punctuates the importance of the feast.


Essential Questions:

  • What role does food play in identifying culture?
  • What cultural foods do you identify with?
  • Are there cultural events that these foods are used in today?
  • How did Hawaiians use food in celebrations and are they still being used today?
  • Can you track the history or journey of the foods that are important in your culture?