• Sitka Conservation Society publishes resource guide for statewide Fish to Schools programs

Serving Local Fish in School Cafeteria_Page_01

The Sitka Conservation Society, which coordinates Sitka’s Fish to Schools program, has published a new resource guide, A Guide to Serving Local Fish in School Cafeterias, to help other school districts around the state implement similar programs in their communities.

F2S_Elementary2The Sitka Fish to Schools program came out of the 2010 Sitka Health Summit, when local residents chose as one of its community wellness projects to serve more local seafood in our schools. Since then the program has grown so that all students from Grades 2-12 in Sitka have a local seafood lunch option at least twice a month. This includes the Sitka School District schools, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, Blatchley Middle School, Sitka High School, and Pacific High School, plus other local schools, the state-run boarding school Mount Edgecumbe High School and the private K-8 The SEER School.

Sitka is one of the first districts in the state to serve local seafood through the National School Lunch Program and has become a leader in the State of Alaska in getting local foods into schools. In the last three years, the number of schools interested in serving local seafood has increased ten-fold. Haines, Dillingham, Kodiak, Galena, and Juneau are a few of the districts that are now serving seafood in their meal programs.

In an effort to support regional and statewide efforts to serve local foods in schools, the Sitka Conservation Society developed a “how-to” guide to serving fish in schools. Using Sitka as a case study, it outlines procurement and processing strategies, legalities, tips, and recipes. Also included are case studies from around the state that offer tips and suggestions based on the success of their programs.

F2S_Elementary3The Sitka Fish to Schools program has seen an increase in meal participation on fish lunch days, likely attributed to the participation of students who typically bring a sack lunch. One student who reported never liking fish started to eat fish after a local chef came to her classroom. Others students circle fish lunch dates on their school lunch calendar, refusing home lunch that day. And why are they so excited? A middle school student put it this way, “It’s healthy and good for you and you feel good after you eat it.” Others give reasons of wanting to become a fisherman or cite the economic value to their community.

In addition to this guide is the “Stream to Plate” curriculum, a unit of seven lessons that connect salmon to the classroom. The lessons address the ecological significance and human relationship to salmon. These lessons have been tried and refined the last three years with third graders at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School.

Chris Bryner, teacher and collaborator on the salmon unit said, “The Fish to Schools curriculum connects my classroom to the community. Students not only learn about a resource relevant to their daily lives, but come away with an understanding that learning happens inside and outside of school.”

As the ninth largest seafood port in the country, Sitka is paving the way for locally-sourced meals. Their efforts are part of a larger national movement, Farm to School, to get local foods in schools. The Alaska Farm to School program honored Sitka’s Fish to Schools program for its innovation a couple of years ago.

celebrate fish to state“The beauty of Fish to Schools is that it provides a practical, local solution to a multitude of current global issues,” Fish to Schools Co-Founder Lexi Fish said. Local sourcing reduces the environmental impact of foods grown and raised thousands of miles away and ultimately supports a more resilient food system.

Local fish in school lunches not only tastes “delicus” (stet), as one third grader put it, but also addresses food justice, nutrition, community sustainability, and conservation. To get a free copy of the guide and curriculum, visit http://sitkawild.org/2014/03/a-guide-to-serving-local-fish-in-school-cafeterias/ or contact Sitka Conservation Society Community Sustainability Organizer Tracy Gagnon at 747.7509 or tracy@sitkawild.org.

Also, don’t forget to stop by the Celebrate Fish to State event from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 20, at Blatchley Middle School to learn more about the efforts to expand the Fish to Schools program statewide.

• Celebrate Fish to State takes place on March 20 to support statewide Fish to Schools program

celebrate fish to state

SCSCohoPortionsForCookingSitka’s Fish to Schools program has been extremely successful the past three years, and now there’s a movement to make similar programs available statewide. Join us from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 20, at Blatchley Middle School as we celebrate Fish to State.

This event will celebrate the success of the Sitka Fish to Schools program, which is coordinated by the Sitka Conservation Society and other partners. The event will include short presentations from Sitka School Board President Lon Garrison, Sitka Local Foods Network President Lisa Sadleir-Hart, and Sitka Conservation Society Community Sustainability Organizer Tracy Gagnon. Light refreshments will be available.

The Sitka Fish to Schools program came out of the 2010 Sitka Health Summit, when local residents chose as one of its community wellness projects to serve more local seafood in our schools. Since then the program has grown so that all students from Grades 2-12 in Sitka have a local seafood lunch option at least twice a month. This includes the Sitka School District schools, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, Blatchley Middle School, Sitka High School, and Pacific High School, plus other local schools, the state-run boarding school Mount Edgecumbe High School and the private K-8 The SEER School. The award-winning program has served as a model for a handful of other school districts in Alaska, and now there is a push to make it available statewide with a full curriculum and resource guide, plus financial support.

For more information, contact Ray Friedlander of the Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509 or ray@sitkawild.org.


• Sitka School District touts more state investment into local foods for school lunch programs


During its Feb. 4 meeting, the Sitka School Board put its weight behind an effort to increase funding for locally sourced food in schools across the state.

In a resolution to the legislature, the board cited the success of Sitka’s Fish to Schools program as justification for extending a similar statewide program beyond one year. Nutritional Alaskan Food for Schools (NAFS) was introduced by Rep. Bill Stoltze (R-Anchorage) in 2012, and piloted last year. This year the governor has included funding of $3 million dollars for the program — but only for one year. All schools in Alaska will receive funding from the program, based on student population. The Sitka School District and state-run Mount Edgecumbe High School received $39,000 from the program last year, which mostly went for seafood purchases (Mount Edgecumbe did buy some potatoes from Gustavus, and Pacific High School bought some vegetables from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm).

In late January, Tracy Gagnon, who coordinates the Fish to Schools program for the Sitka Conservation Society, submitted the following letter to the editor to the Daily Sitka Sentinel outlining the reasons to support the program.

Nutritional Alaskan Foods for Schools

Dear Editor,

Sitka is one of the first communities in Alaska to push for local foods in schools through the Fish to Schools program; now it’s time to go state-wide. The Governor has included in his FY15 budget state funding to reimburse school districts for their purchases of Alaskan grown or caught foods through the Nutritional Alaskan Foods for Schools program (NAFS). This makes it possible for schools to serve local, nutritious foods to their students, sourcing from farmers, fishermen, and processors in or around their communities. NAFS improves Alaska’s food security and helps us create a more sustainable local food system.

Representative Stoltze proposed NAFS in 2011, and more than 100 vendors and 48 school districts benefited from this legislation in the 2012-2013 school year. Nearly 90 percent of those 48 school districts purchased local seafood.

Every year food producers and school food service providers wait anxiously every spring for NAFS to pass. And usually it’s too late for farmers to meet the extra demand because they’ve already planted their crops and food service has already purchased other foods. Making this funding permanent would provide both food service and food producers the consistency necessary for advanced planning and coordination of harvest to ensure supply meets demand.

The Sitka Conservation Society thanks both the leadership of Representative Stoltze and Governor Parnell for including NAFS in his proposed budget. We urge Alaska Legislators to support the permanent funding of a program that increases Alaska’s food security, catalyzes Alaska’s food production, supports local communities, and improves the health of our students.

Tracy Gagnon
Community Sustainability Organizer
Sitka Conservation Society

• Alaska Food Resource Working Group to hold inaugural meeting Nov. 4 in Anchorage

(The following is a press release from the Alaska Food Policy Council. Sitka Local Foods Network Board President Lisa Sadleir-Hart is a member of the Alaska Food Policy Council’s governing board.)

Alaska Food Resource Working Group to hold inaugural meeting in Anchorage

Statewide call-to-action on food resource development

AlaskaFoodPolicyCouncilLogoANCHORAGE, Alaska (Oct. 31) – Alaskans spend approximately $2.5 billion dollars on food each year, but only an estimated 5 percent of the food Alaskans buy is produced locally. The Alaska Food Resource Working Group (AFRWG) is tasked with changing that statistic and building a strong, resilient statewide food economy. The AFRWG will hold its inaugural meeting from 10 a.m. until noon on Monday, Nov. 4, in Room 602 of the Robert B. Atwood Building, located at 550 West 7th Avenue in Anchorage.

On June 28, 2013, Gov. Sean Parnell signed legislation calling for the creation of the Alaska Food Resource Working Group (AFRWG) under Administrative Order 265, with the goal of building Alaska’s food economy. As a response to House Concurrent Resolution 1, sponsored by Rep. Bill Stoltze, the Governor signed the administrative order to establish a state agency work group focused on recommending policies and measures to increase the purchase and consumption of local wild seafood and farm products.

The AFRWG will be composed of eight (8) state agency commissioners or designees responsible for the development, oversight, and marketing of locally grown and harvested foods. Increasing collaboration between state and local agencies, the University of Alaska, federal agencies, regional corporations, nonprofit organizations, and the Alaska Food Policy Council (AFPC). Danny Consenstein, Alaska Food Policy Council Governing Board Member, will serve as a representative on behalf of the AFPC.

“[AO 265] recognizes the importance to all Alaskans of developing a secure food system that can provide jobs, support healthy communities, and increase food security to feed the hungry and insulate us from potential disruptions along the food supply chain,” said Lisa Sadleir-Hart (Sitka), Governing Board Member of the Alaska Food Policy Council.

The Alaska Food Policy Council (AFPC) is an independent statewide organization with the vision of a healthy, secure food system that feeds all Alaskans. Over 150 representatives from federal and state agencies, tribal entities, university programs, farmers, fisheries, food systems businesses, and health and hunger agencies serve on the AFPC to determine food policy opportunities to ensure a healthy, self-reliant, and prosperous Alaskan food system. A member of the AFPC Governing Board will serve on the AFRWG to represent the broader group of stakeholders on the Alaska Food Policy Council.

“The Alaska Food Policy Council really believes that the group created by this resolution will ultimately help to both bring Alaska’s rich food resources to market and address issues of access to healthy, nutritious, adequate supplies of food for all Alaskans,” declared Mary Sullivan of the Food Bank of Alaska and Alaska Food Policy Council Legislative Workgroup Chair.

By instituting programs and adopting regulations supporting a vibrant food economy in Alaska, the Alaska State Legislature and the Governor are facilitating momentous steps toward a food secure state. HCR1 and Administrative Order 265 demonstrate the commitment of Alaska’s government to the health, safety, welfare, and overall economic and social well-being of Alaska residents.


The Alaska Food Policy Council is an independent, statewide organization with a vision for a food secure, healthy Alaska. For more information about the Alaska Food Policy Council, please contact Danny Consenstein by phone at (907) 761-7738 or by email at daniel.consenstein@ak.usda.gov.