• Fish to Schools program seeks donations of coho salmon, photos from commercial fishermen

FishtoSchool

The Fish to Schools program needs help from Sitka’s commercial fishermen. The program needs a few hundred pounds of coho salmon to help make Fish to Schools meals for Sitka students during the upcoming 2015-16 school year. The program also is seeking photos of commercial fishermen at work, which can be used to teach the students more about how the fish got to their plates.

The coho salmon donation period is Monday. Aug. 24, through Monday, Aug. 31. To donate, commercial fishermen can sign up and indicate how many pounds they want to donate when they offload at Seafood Producers Cooperative or Sitka Sound Seafoods during the donation period. The program can only accept commercially caught fish (no sport or subsistence fish). The hope is to get enough coho donated that locally caught salmon can be offered to students at least once a week.

The Sitka Fish To Schools project (click here to see short video) got its start as a community wellness project at the 2010 Sitka Health Summit, and now is managed by the Sitka Conservation Society. It started by providing a monthly fish dish as part of the school lunch as Blatchley Middle School, and since then has grown to feature regular fish dishes as part of the lunch programs at Baranof Elementary School, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary SchoolBlatchley Middle School, Sitka High SchoolPacific High School (where the alternative high school students cook the meals themselves), the SEER School, and Mount Edgecumbe High School.

FishtoSchool2In addition to serving locally caught fish meals as part of the school lunch program, the Fish To Schools program also brings local fishermen, fisheries biologists and chefs to the classroom to teach the kids about the importance of locally caught fish in Sitka. The program received an innovation award from the Alaska Farm To Schools program during a community celebration dinner in May 2012, and now serves as a model for other school districts from coastal fishing communities. In May 2014, the Fish to Schools program released a guidebook so other school districts in Alaska could create similar programs.

For more information, contact Sophie Nethercut of the Sitka Conservation Society, sophie@sitkawild.org or 747-7509. You also can contact Beth Short-Rhoads at 738-9942 or elianise@yahoo.com. Photos and captions of commercial fishermen working out on the water should be sent to Sophie.

• Kathy Hope Erickson’s salmon/potato patties win top honors in Fish To Schools recipe contest

Members of the panel of judges sample one of the recipes in the Fish To Schools Recipe Contest at the Sitka Seafood Festival on Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, at the Sheldon Jackson Campus/Sitka Fine Arts Camp.

Members of the panel of judges sample one of the recipes in the Fish To Schools Recipe Contest at the Sitka Seafood Festival on Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, at the Sheldon Jackson Campus/Sitka Fine Arts Camp.

Recipe Contest FinalKathy Hope Erickson claimed top honors in the Fish To Schools recipe contest during the Sitka Seafood Festival, and two younger chefs tied for second place.

Kathy submitted a recipe for salmon and potato patties, which she served with a special chili ketchup, and won a gift certificate to Ludvig’s Bistro for her efforts. Tying for second place were Zoe Trafton, age 8, with her recipe for salmon mac and cheese, and Ava Newell (with her father Mike), age 8, with her recipe for coconut pecan rockfish with a blueberry dipping sauce. Zoe and Ava both won t-shirts. A panel of nine judges, including a couple of students, rated the recipes.

In all, eight local chefs submitted recipes for the contest, which was hosted by the Sitka Conservation Society, which coordinates the Sitka Fish To Schools Program to put more healthy local seafood into school lunches. The other recipes included sesame-veggie salmon cakes with tangy apple slaw by Beth Short-Rhoads and her daughter Kat Rhoads, age 6; salmon pinwheels from Judi Ozment; healthy salmon fish fingers from Anna Bisaro; baked salmon with dill from Matt Jones; and salmon-veggie wraps from Charles Bingham.

The purpose of the contest was to collect kid-friendly fish entree recipes that can be made for school lunches as part of the Fish to Schools program. The dishes should be healthy and easy to make (no special appliances). Baking the fish is preferred over frying, and recipes should be low in sodium and fat. The top seafood dishes will be used in school lunches at the Sitka School District, the state-run Mount Edgecumbe High School, and the private SEER School.

The top three recipes are posted below, and all eight recipes can be found in the attachment. For more information about the recipe contest and the Sitka Fish To Schools Program, click this link or call Sophie Nethercut or Tracy Gagnon of the Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509.

• 2014 Fish To Schools Recipe Contest Submissions (attachment includes all eight recipes)

School Lunch Salmon Patties With Chili Ketchup (Makes 12)

Winning Recipe submitted by Kathy Hope Erickson, Sitka

  • KathyHopeErickson1 pint jar salmon
  • 2 cups cooked potatoes
  • 1/3 cup chopped onions
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon garlic seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon onion seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salad herbs – dried
  • 12 Ritz crackers

Mix all, form into patties, fry in heated vegetable oil, or alternatively, spray with cooking spray and bake in 400-degree oven.

Chili Ketchup

For dipping fish patties: Combine 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 4 1/2 teaspoon onion, and 3/4 cup ketchup.

 

Coconut Pecan Rockfish With Blueberry Dipping Sauce

2nd place: Submitted by Mike and Ava Newell (age 8), Sitka

  • MikeAndAvaNewel1 lb. rockfish fillets
  • 1 T coconut milk
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 C pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 C shredded coconut
  • 2 T plain breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place rockfish on baking sheet. Pour coconut milk over fish. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Combine pecans, coconut, and bread crumbs in a bowl. Press coconut mixture onto top of fish fillets. Bake for 15-20 minutes, just until fish is opaque throughout

Blueberry Dipping Sauce

  • 1 C wild blueberries, rinsed
  • 1/4 C water
  • 1/4 C coconut milk
  • 1/2 T cornstarch
  • salt

Place blueberries and water in small saucepan. Simmer until berries burst. Strain berries through fine mesh sieve into small bowl. Add coconut milk to bowl. Pour sauce back into saucepan. Mix cornstarch with a little bit of cold water until smooth. Add cornstarch mixture to sauce. Stir and heat until boiling. Continue to boil until desired thickness. Serve with rockfish

 

Salmon Mac ‘n Cheese
2nd place: Submitted by Zoe Trafton (age 8), Sitka

  • ZoeTrafton1 cup cooked salmon, chopped
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar and jack recommended)
  • 2 cups shell pasta
  • ½ cup finely chopped onions
  • ½ cup finely chopped mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • ½ cup Alfredo sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Frank’s Red Hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder

Boil shells in medium pot. Sauté onions and mushrooms for three minutes. Add salmon to mushrooms and onions. Drain water and add pasta. Add cheese. Add Alfredo sauce and hot sauce. Mix carefully. Add spices and serve.

• Pacific High School and Sitka Conservation Society partner up to serve local fish in school lunches

Pacific High School student Jessie Young, left, co-principal Sarah Ferrency, center, and lunch coordinator Johanna Willingham load rockfish into the freezer at Pacific High School. an alternative high school in Sitka, Alaska. (PHOTO COURTESY OF TRACY GAGNON / SITKA CONSERVATION SOCIETY)

Pacific High School student Jessie Young, left, co-principal Sarah Ferrency, center, and lunch coordinator Johanna Willingham load rockfish into the freezer at Pacific High School. an alternative high school in Sitka, Alaska. (PHOTO COURTESY OF TRACY GAGNON / SITKA CONSERVATION SOCIETY)

Pacific High School now serves local seafood in the cafeteria and joins the growing ranks of schools connecting to local foods. Starting Wednesday, Feb. 1, Pacific High students will have a choice of local seafood dishes twice a month due to a partnership with the Sitka Conservation Society.

Sitka, Alaska, is the ninth largest fishing port in the country, but only recently did school children have access to the abundance of local seafood in school lunches. The project began in 2010 after getting more fish in school lunches was voted on as one of Sitka’s four health priorities at the Sitka Health Summit. The Sitka Conservation Society took the lead on the project and partnered with Blatchley Middle School in the winter of 2010-11 school year and then with Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School in 2011-12 to launch a Fish to Schools program. Due to the success of that program, it has evolved and spread to another school in the community.

Tracy Gagnon, Fish to Schools coordinator at Sitka Conservation Society said, “To kick off the new partnership, SCS’s Fish to Schools program will cook with Pacific High students to rally support for local fish lunches. A favorite recipe will be chosen for an upcoming Fish to Schools benefit.”

LOCALLY MADE– Americorps Volunteer Lauren Hahn, left, and Pacific High School students in the culinary arts program, Brendan Didrickson and Jenny Jeter, prepare a lunch of Caribbean rockfish with sweet potato fries, baked apples and wild rice at the school on Wednesday, Feb. 1. This was the first Pacific High lunch in the Fish to Schools program. The program began in 2010 as a Sitka Health Summit project when Sitka Conservation Society joined Blatchley Middle School to serve locally caught fish in school lunches. Since then, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School and now Pacific High have joined the twice-monthly program. On Wednesday, Feb. 8, SCS is inviting commercial fishers to join students at Keet for lunch. (Daily Sitka Sentinel photo by James Poulson, printed in the Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012, edition)

LOCALLY MADE– Americorps Volunteer Lauren Hahn, left, and Pacific High School students in the culinary arts program, Brendan Didrickson and Jenny Jeter, prepare a lunch of Caribbean rockfish with sweet potato fries, baked apples and wild rice at the school on Wednesday, Feb. 1. This was the first Pacific High lunch in the Fish to Schools program. The program began in 2010 as a Sitka Health Summit project when Sitka Conservation Society joined Blatchley Middle School to serve locally caught fish in school lunches. Since then, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School and now Pacific High have joined the twice-monthly program. On Wednesday, Feb. 8, SCS is inviting commercial fishers to join students at Keet for lunch. (Daily Sitka Sentinel photo by James Poulson, printed in the Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012, edition)

Unlike at the middle and elementary schools, Pacific High (the Sitka School District’s alternative high school) has more flexibility in the dishes it prepares with local fish. For example, the first Pacific High local seafood lunch will be Caribbean rockfish with sweet potato fries, baked apples and wild rice. Students help prepare the meals through the school’s culinary arts program. Every student earns their food handlers’ card and annually they cycle through a six-week cooking class. Students graduate high school with enough experience to enter into the cooking industry, bringing with them the knowledge to prepare scratch meals with healthy and local ingredients.

“We are striving to change the system by incorporating more local and traditional foods that the students want to eat,” said Johanna Willingham, Pacific High School lunch coordinator. “Through our innovative food-based meal program, the students are learning valuable life skills by developing recipes they enjoy and cooking with their local bounty.”

The Fish to Schools program creates new partnerships by uniting the local conservation organization and high school with community-based processors and fishermen. That partnership allows more students access to healthy lunches, as fish are packed with vitamins, proteins and omega-3 fatty acids that promote healthy hearts and healthy brains.

“Our community depends on the fish that comes out of the ocean, yet our school lunches were so disconnected from our local resources,” said Beth Short-Rhoads, Fish to Schools volunteer organizer, mother and fishing woman. “Thanks to Fish to Schools, our children now have access to local seafood. The fact that it is incredibly healthy is an even bigger bonus.”

There are more than 9,000 schools across the United States involved with local Farm to Schools programs. The majority of the programs serve land-based foods in the cafeterias, so Pacific High adds another layer by providing local seafood to students. This is an exciting opportunity to be part of the growing farm — or fish — to school movement across the country,” Gagnon said.

The Fish to Schools program also serves up local fish dishes at Blatchley Middle School and Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School on the second and fourth Wednesdays during the school year. On Wednesday, Feb. 8, the program is honoring local commercial fishermen by inviting them to join the students at lunch so they can share the meal and answer questions the students may have about the fish. (Editor’s note: On Feb. 6, Tracy Gagnon, Beth Short-Rhoads and students Grace Gjertsen, Zofia Danielson and Sienna Reid were interviewed by Robert Woolsey about the We Love Our Fishermen! promotion on the Morning Edition show on KCAW-Raven Radio.)

The Sitka Conservation Society has been working to protect the temperate rain forest of Southeast Alaska and Sitka’s quality of life since 1967. SCS is based in the small coastal town of Sitka, in the heart of the Tongass National Forest, the nation’s largest national forest. For more information, go to http://www.sitkawild.org. To learn more about the Fish to Schools program, contact Tracy Gagnon at tracy@sitkawild.org or 747-7509.