Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School student Naomi Capp, age 9, talks with fisherman Steve Lawrie during a “We Love Our Fishermen” lunch on Wednesday (April 26) at the school. The elementary school was hosting fishermen who donated part of their catch to the Fish to Schools program. The program is managed by the Sitka Conservation Society and provides locally caught fish dishes and education about fishing as part of the lunch programs at Baranof Elementary School, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, Blatchley Middle School, Sitka High School, Pacific High School, the SEER School, and Mount Edgecumbe High School. The Fish to Schools program was a project of the Sitka Health Summit. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)
In her regular job, Tracy On is the chef at Patagonia headquarters in Ventura, Calif., serving about 500 breakfasts and lunches a day to Patagonia employees. For her summer vacation, Tracy is in Sitka developing new recipes for the Fish to Schools program as part of a two-week internship with the Sitka Conservation Society.
“I’m working on recipes for Fish to Schools, so we can incorporate a little more local salmon in the school lunches,” Tracy said. “I also had personal reasons for coming here. I wanted to learn more about the fishing industry and how to connect the kids to their local food sources. I’m also a little selfish. I’ve always wanted to come to Alaska and this is my first trip.”
During her first week in Sitka, Tracy spent several days at the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen testing new recipes. She also did a morning interview with KCAW-Raven Radio on Wednesday to help spread the word about her visit. On Friday, Tracy prepared a chum salmon fried rice dish and a pink salmon macaroni and cheese dish, then took a tour of the newly renovated Sitka Salmon Shares plant. She also has been working on a salmon corn dog and other recipes.
Tracy is trying to create recipes the kids will enjoy, what she called “comfort classics kids love,” while also keeping costs down because most school districts don’t receive more than $2 or $3 per student meal for their school lunch programs. That’s one reason she has been working with pink and chum salmon while in Sitka, because the costs are lower. She also is testing recipes that can be cooked from scratch, as well as ones that just require reheating, since school districts use different methods to prepare their meals. The Sitka Conservation Society will host an invitation-only tasting this week where SCS members and guests can try out a few of the new meals.
“The main reason to host Tracy is to bring the Fish to Schools program to the next step,” said Sophie Nethercut, who coordinates the program for the Sitka Conservation Society. “We’ve been running this program on donations, and with the funding climate the way it is, we wanted to create a line of minimally processed recipes using pink and chum salmon that can be marketed to schools, nursing homes and hospitals.”
Tracy isn’t the first intern the Sitka Conservation Society has hosted from Patagonia, which has been sending employees to Sitka for the past three years to work on a variety of projects. Other Patagonia interns held workshops on repairing outdoor gear or helped with computer systems while in Sitka.
Tracy will be in town one more week, which will include a couple of sessions working on new recipes at the Sitka Kitch and the tasting event. She also hopes to get out on a commercial fishing boat and possibly visit other seafood processors in town.
Also, local commercial fishermen can still donate coho salmon to the Fish to Schools program, as the annual donation drive has been extended until Aug. 30.
The Sitka Conservation Society will highlight one of its community sustainability projects when it hosts its annual meeting and potluck (aka, the Voices of the Tongass Gathering) from 5-7 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 28, at the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen (located inside First Presbyterian Church, 505 Sawmill Creek Road).
The Sitka Kitch was a project of the 2013 Sitka Health Summit, and the project is coordinated by the Sitka Conservation Society, in partnership with the Sitka Local Foods Network. The Sitka Kitch can be rented to teach cooking and food preservation classes, by local cottage food industry entrepreneurs who need a commercial kitchen to make their products, and for large groups needing a large kitchen for a community dinner.