In 2009, while revitalizing the commercial production of paiai, I received a cease and desist order from the State Department of Health. The DOH took issue with not only the process but also tools our kupuna relied upon for over a thousand years. After a lengthy legislative challenge, the State granted an exception, making it “legal” to sell paiai for the first time in many decades.

Restaurants, grocery stores, and community members clamored to get their hands on fresh paiai. Select families, such as mine, maintained the tradition of hand-pounded paiai and poi. For the general public, however, this was something new. That Hawaii’s traditional staple had become novel was both encouraging and deeply saddening. I soon realized there was a gap in our food system: few possessed the skills, and even fewer the tools, to make paiai.

Hui Aloha Aina Momona was founded to fill this systemic gap by providing educational training and producing papa and pohaku. Through generous donations, dedicated volunteers, and no small amount of sweat, we have put hundreds of boards and stones into Hawaii’s communities across all eight moku. As we reflect on our work, we envision a Hawaii that puts our wellbeing, natural resources, and indigenous practices first.

Daniel Anthony Executive Director, Hui Aloha Aina Momona