This is Fish Radio. I’m Stephanie Mangini. Teaching fish makes for tastier fish. More after this . . .
The At Sea Processors Association donates one million fish meals each year through its Community Catch program. Learn more at www.atsea.org
Each year community members of Sitka gather for a health summit to identify what the town priorities are. In 2010 the importance of having local seafood on the lunch trays of school children was on the top of that list. What started as a once a month serving of seafood at only one of Sitkas school is now spread throughout almost the whole school district.
“We are now serving local seafood at all grades’ two thru twelve in Sitka twice a month. We are serving locally caught coho and rockfish and it is reaching about fifteen hundred students.”
Tracy Gagnon is the Community Sustainability Organizer for the Sitka Conservation Society. The support from local processors, fishermen, and food services really jump started the program. The SCS took leadership of the program shortly after to continue to push success.
“It has been fun to see how kids are reacting, and this year it has been building. The number has been increasing because there has been more of a demand. Especially at the elementary schools.”
The fish meal option has been served to students twice a month for the last two years.
“It’s neat but also a challenge because we are competing with other foods. So when we have fish meals we are always serving fish against two other popular meal items.”
Along with the fish to school program, SCS created a curriculum for third graders called “Stream to Plate.” Students are able to learn to have a deeper connection to fish.
“The Stream to Plate unit teaches youth how our fish are caught processed and prepared. They are making all of these connections between culture, and health, nutrition, and economy through this unit and it reenforces the meals they are being served.”
There are “Fish to School” programs in many schools around the state. Each individual program is structured around its communities needs, all keeping the same goal in mind.
“There are a number of communities who are serving local seafood this year and we are one of them. Every program is unique. We are all doing it a little differently. It’s so important. Fish is our culture. It’s who we are and we want to make sure that kids are eating what we have and learning about it because it is such an opportunity for education and connection.”
Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods. Ocean Beauty has contributed over 10 million meals to the U.S. Food Bank network, and is committed to ending hunger in America. In Kodiak I’m Stephanie Mangini. www.oceanbeauty.com