Members of the Sitka Health Summit group trying to get more locally caught wild fish served in school lunches met with Sitka school officials Friday, Nov. 19, over a meal of fish tacos and agreed to a pilot study to see how many students will choose fish for lunch.
The project is one of four community health priorities/goals to come out of the 2010 Sitka Health Summit this October. Community members want to have more locally caught wild fish served in school lunches because the food is healthier than the usual school-lunch fare, especially with the Omega 3 fatty acids found in most finfish. Also, by using local fish will help the local commercial fishing industry and there is less of an environmental impact because there are fewer transportation miles used to get the food to Sitka.
On Friday, Nov. 19, members of the project task force — called FISH!, or Fish In Schools, Hooray! — met with Sitka School District Superintendent Steve Bradshaw and other school officials, including NANA Management Services, which has the food service contract for the school district. Representatives from several of Sitka’s fish processors and commercial fishing organizations also attended the fish taco lunch at the Southeast Alaska Career Center (located behind Pacific High School). One of the key issues is trying to find reasonably priced fish that doesn’t exceed the school district’s budget for protein.
During the meeting, the school district and FISH! decided to run a pilot project at Blatchley Middle School starting in January and running through the end of the school year. During the test program, fresh fish (starting with Pacific cod) will be served once a month as one of the four options available to students. If enough of the students select the fish, then the project will spread to all schools next year. The task force will promote the fish through the school newspaper, school newsletter and other local media. The task force will sponsor the cost difference during the first month of the project, with other groups picking up the cost difference in following months.
In addition to the Sitka School District, the task force also is working with Pacific High School (which creates its own menus separate from the district), Mt. Edgecumbe High School (which is run by the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development) and the Sitka Pioneer Home to get more locally caught wild fish into their menus.
(EDITOR’s NOTE: The Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel included a story about the project. The story is posted below as a PDF file, since the Sentinel’s site requires a password.)