April 8, 2014
This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch — Sitka helps get more local fish on school lunch trays. More after this — Sitka launches Fish to Schools guide
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You can now download ASMI’s quick guide to Alaska seafood on any mobile device. Cooking it, catching it, sustaining it – learn more at www.alaskaseafood.org —
A ‘how to’ guide will help more Alaska schools get local fish into their lunch programs. The Fish to Schools toolkit outlines procuring and preparing seafood, legalities, tips and recipes. The idea was spawned two years ago by a grass roots push and backed by Sitka’s two hospitals.
It gets our fishermen and processors, and our schools, which includes children and parents; it includes community members who are volunteering to support the program so I feel like everyone can be involved to make it successful. And I really think that’s what made ours so successful because of the community engagement. 26
Tracy Gagnon of the Sitka Conservation Society coordinates the local Fish to Schools program. Many Alaska schools already serve local seafood. She hopes the guide book will motivate others to follow suit. To help make students more aware of where their food comes from the guide includes a Stream to Plate curriculum.
It’s a series of seven lessons that really bring salmon to life in the classroom. It’s a place based unit and so there are a number of activities that teach students how salmon are connected to their lives and the community, to the economy and the environment. And that is something that is pretty unique to our Sitka program. 7
Gagnon says local fishermen and processors donate the seafood to the schools and it’s served once a week. Now they can be reimbursed because Fish to Schools got a big funding boost from the state.
But this year is unique because there is a $3 million grant from the state that reimburses school districts for their Alaska food purchases. It’s called Nutrition Alaska Food for Schools and it’s a fabulous statewide appropriation that reimburses schools so they can purchase Alaska food like seafood. 16
Food for Schools money is in the capitol budget and Gagnon hopes it becomes a fixed item.
We are really hoping to see multiyear funding so schools have the ability to invest in infrastructure development so that they can really process raw product – and that also is a boom to Alaskan vendors because they are able to have secure in state markets. So it’s an overall win win.
Most schools today have moved away from cooking from scratch and serve heat and serve products that are highly processed. Gagnon says Sitka’s model gets away from that.
I think that’s one of the successes from this program is that we are breaking that habit. We are changing the current system.so instead of only having heat and serve meals we are integrating local seafood that is prepared from scratch. So that is a really cool hurdle we’ve accomplished.
Ocean Beauty has contributed over 10 million meals to the U.S. Food Bank network, and is committed to ending hunger in America. www.oceanbeauty.com In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.