Sitka Conservation Society brings back Fish to Schools coho donation drive

The Sitka Conservation Society is excited to bring back its Fish to Schools coho donation drive after a couple-year hiatus due to the pandemic. This year’s drive is in full swing and will run through mid-late September. Thanks to the F/V Mindalina for its recent donation of 50 coho to the program.

To participate, simply tell your processor how many pounds or the number of coho you want to donate when you offload and they will record it. Yelloweye rockfish overage is also welcome. If you are a freezer-troller offloading at the Samson Tug and Barge Dock and would like to donate fish, look for the Fish to Schools tote or coordinate with Kurt Ainslie.

Thank you to all fishermen for their support of the Fish to Schools program year after year, helping increase access to healthy local seafood for youth in Sitka and ensuring the program remains a success.

Contact Kylee Jones at kylee@sitkawild.org or call 907-738-7232 with any questions or for more information.

USDA awards Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) with funding to conduct assessment of local seafood security and seafood industry workforce

SITKA, Alaska – The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) is pleased to announce it was selected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to receive $209,100 from a Regional Food System Partnerships (RFSP) grant as part of the Agriculture Marketing Service’s Local Agriculture Marketing Program (LAMP). ALFA was one of 30 projects selected across 24 states to receive an RFSP grant and will use the funding to foster new partnerships around Alaska that help build a more resilient regional food system, specifically when it comes to local seafood access and seafood industry workforce development.

The impacts of Covid-19 highlighted long standing workforce development and food insecurity issues in Alaska. The seafood industry provides the backbone of coastal economies but relies on outside labor for processing, marketing, and shipping. Quarantine requirements led to significant labor shortages and high costs. In addition, currently less than 1 percent of the seafood caught in Alaska stays in Alaska to benefit the local economy. Alaska is one of the top five most food insecure states in the nation. It is estimated 95 percent of the $2 billion of food Alaskans purchase each year is imported, and 14 percent of Alaskans, including 20 percent of children, face food insecurity.

In response to the pandemic and food insecurity in Alaska, in March 2020, the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association formed a statewide coalition of nonprofits, tribal organizations, military organizations, city and boroughs, foundations, fishermen, and seafood processors to address food insecurity and workforce development challenges. The coalition was made possible with funding from Catch Together; a nonprofit that supports innovative conservation endeavors and fishermen-led efforts that address long-term access to local fishery resources. This initiative, which became known as the Seafood Donation Program, provided stipends and workforce support to the seafood industry and deployed $2.5 million to purchase local seafood for distribution, providing more than 630,000 free meals of Alaska seafood to individuals and families facing food insecurity. 

With funding from the USDA, ALFA will develop and implement a two-year assessment that looks at its pilot Seafood Donation Program and the feasibility of potentially continuing and expanding it into an ongoing program. In addition, the assessment will look at current seafood industry workforce development programs and identify gaps and barriers keeping local Alaskans from participating in the seafood industry. The project will culminate with the development of a feasibility study for a ten-year statewide seafood distribution and workforce development plan with emphasis on cultural relevance of seafood and serving marginalized communities. 

“We’re honored to carry this project forward and help lay the groundwork for new projects and programs in Alaska that could help make our communities healthier and more resilient,” said Linda Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. “Thanks to this support from the USDA, we’ll be able to work with a wide range of partners to assess where the biggest needs and opportunities are for ensuring that our local food systems are better prepared for future disruptions such as COVID-19, and that we have the tools in place to encourage local employment in our local seafood industry.”

As a “partnership” grant, ALFA’s project will rely heavily on the engagement of diverse stakeholders and will be guided by a formal steering committee including representatives from Alaska tribes, seafood distributors, national and state philanthropic and foundation leadership, chefs, community, and policy leaders as well as youth representatives. Some of these steering committee members will include founding partners of the Seafood Donation Program, including Sam Schimmel from Kenai, who helped spearhead several salmon distributions to Alaska Native families in the Anchorage and Fairbanks communities. 

“I’m really excited to be part of this project and help create new, locally grown solutions to some very complex problems,” Schimmel said. “We know that these needs are not going away, so this project is an important opportunity for us to all come together, share information, and figure out how we can ensure our Alaska Native communities continue to have access to the native foods that keep us connected to our traditions and to our cultures.”

“There’s no question that Alaska’s seafood industry faces a lot of challenges when it comes to workforce, whether that’s graying of the fleet or lack of new recruitment into the fisheries,” said Norm Pillen, president of Seafood Producers Cooperative in Sitka. “I”m looking forward to seeing what we learn through this project and how it can help advance conversations already underway about the future of Alaska’s seafood industry and our coastal communities.”

The funding is made possible through grant programs administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) as part of the Local Agriculture Marketing Program (LAMP) — the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), the Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP), and the Regional Food System Partnerships (RFSP).

Tenth annual Fish To Schools coho donation drive has a new partner

Sitka commercial troller Eric Jordan discusses the fishing industry with local students during a Fish To Schools have lunch with a fisherman event (photo courtesy Sitka Conservation Society)

(The following was submitted as a letter to the editor that ran in the Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel)

Sitka’s Fish to Schools program is celebrating a decade of bringing locally caught seafood lunches into all of Sitka’s schools. While the program typically relies solely on donations from local fishermen, Sitka Producers Cooperative (SPC) and Sitka Sounds Seafoods, (SSS) this year the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) will also be purchasing fish. We’re grateful that ALFA’s investment in food security will ensure that Sitka’s kids have access to nourishing foods, while circulating money in the local economy and taking pressure off of fishermen during a challenging summer.

The coho donation drive will operate as usual from Aug. 15 to Sept. 15, and all contributions are welcome and appreciated. Sitka’s fishermen are the heart and soul of the Fish to Schools program and this program wouldn’t exist without their generosity and dedication to feeding the next generation of ocean stewards.

Linda Behnken, Executive Director of ALFA, said on the program, “Sitka fishermen and local processors SPC and Sitka Sound Seafoods have long supported Fish to Schools and have donated generously over the years. ALFA/ASFT (Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust) are grateful to be in a position this year to support the purchase of seafood for schools to take the pressure off Sitka fishermen and processors who are reeling from the impacts of COVID-19.“

Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School student Naomi Capp, age 9, talks with fisherman Steve Lawrie Wednesday (April 25, 2018) during lunch 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 fish dishes 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. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

The Sitka Fish to Schools program brings locally caught seafood lunches and salmon-focused classroom curricula into schools. The mission of this program is to deepen youth understanding of local seafood resources and teach children that salmon require respect in both harvest and habitat. Fish to Schools lays the groundwork for Sitka’s youth to discover how the commercial fishing industry operates and inspires students to support or become involved in one of Southeast Alaska’s most important economic sectors. Having access to local seafood reminds us how lucky we are to be Alaskans!

“Ten years of Fish to Schools in Sitka has flown by. The best part of being involved in this program is witnessing how many community members care about our local kids and want to help this program succeed. To me, Fish to Schools really exemplifies how wonderful our community is,” longtime program supporter Lexi Fish said. She continued, “my daughter was a kindergartener last year and loved eating the school lunch on Wednesdays — salmon burgers were her favorite.”

Since it became a community wellness project at the 2010 Sitka Health Summit, the Fish to Schools program has been a partner-rich endeavor. Local processors including Sitka Sound Seafoods and the Seafood Producers Cooperative, the Sitka School District, Mount Edgecumbe High School, the SEER School, Head Start — and in particular the cafeteria teams at those facilities — along with community members Lexi Fish and Beth Short-Rhoads have all been key players in realizing this initiative from the ground up. We’re happy to expand this list this year to include ALFA. And of course, the program would not be possible without such strong support from the local fishermen who donate their catch to the program, nourishing students with the Omega-3s and other vitamins wild salmon provide.

To donate, tell scale operators how many fish you would like to donate as you offload at Seafood Producers Cooperative or Sitka Sound Seafoods. If fishermen have yelloweye rockfish overage, they are welcome to donate them to Fish to Schools as well. If you would like to donate to Fish to Schools, please contact Heather Bauscher of Sitka Conservation Society at heather@sitkawild.org or 747-7509 for more information.

Sincerely,

Sitka Conservation Society

Sitka-based community supported fisheries programs give back to the community

These are tough times, with an outbreak keeping people at home and closing many businesses. It’s also been a tough time for some fisheries, with unusual season closures and reduced catch limits.

Two community supported fisheries (CSF) programs based in Sitka — Alaskans Own Seafood and Sitka Salmon Shares — are doing what they can to give back to the community to try and help ease the strain. The Alaskans Own Seafood program is targeting struggling families, while Sitka Salmon Shares is looking to help struggling families and fishermen.

Similar to a community supported agriculture (CSA) program, where people buy shares from a local farmer to help forward-fund a season of crops and receive monthly boxes of produce in exchange, people sign up to buy subscription boxes from a CSF program so they receive a monthly box of selected fish based on what’s in season. The Alaskans Own program distributes its CSF boxes in Sitka, Juneau, Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Seattle. The Sitka Salmon Shares program takes its CSF boxes to several Midwest states, such as Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and others.

The Alaskans Own Seafood program, operated by the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, is partnering with Seafood Producers Cooperative so people can go to the Alaskans Own website for people to donate to cover a box of IQF (individually quick frozen) fillets delivered to the doors of Sitka’s families in need. Boxes are $30 and weigh approximately 10 pounds. Families will be identified through partnering Sitka wellness and aid programs. The donating person can specify a family to receive the box or allow families in need to be identified through mutual aid programs such as SAFV (Sitkans Against Family Violence) and other programs, such as the Sitka Mutual Aid — COVID-19 page on Facebook. The SAFV shelter is happy to take weekly donations.

ALFA and SPC are covering costs and will adjust as appropriate. Additional funding support for this program is welcomed.
“This past week we launched a seafood donation program.  We are delivering seafood to families in need every Thursday afternoon,” ALFA executive director Linda Behnken wrote in an email. “The three-dollar-per-pound contribution covers processing and door to door distribution — the fish is donated. Seafood is being delivered via an electric car.”

On Friday, April 10, Sitka Salmon Shares donated 100 pounds of salmon collars to the Salvation Army food bank and soup kitchen in Sitka and plans to donate a few hundred more pounds that we have in the freezer to them and other local causes over the coming weeks, Sitka Salmon Shares chief fisheries officer Kelly Harrell wrote in an email. “We are also going to make a cash contribution to Sitka Mutual Aid, and will provide free processing of fish for our fishermen who want to donate fish to local causes over the season.”

“In terms of support for our fleet, we have worked with our fishermen to set minimum prices for their harvest that the company will not go below this season, and will work to stay above those prices as much as possible,” Harrell added. “This provides our fleet with assurance that no matter how far the dock price dives due to the impacts of COVID-19, they will be paid a certain amount for what they deliver to the company. For our first loads of halibut this season, the price we are paying has been 33-42% above the prevailing Sitka dock price in the last few weeks. We’ve also recently launched the Sitka Salmon Shares Fishermen’s Fund which is a creative way to generate extra income for our fleet that is not tied to their harvest or dock prices.
“We are diverting a portion of the company’s 1 Percent to the Wild Fund (which provides contributions to small-scale fisheries and conservation causes) to the Fishermen Fund and are also generating revenue into the fund through the sales of “Alaska Fishermen Keep America Fed” t-shirts designed by local Sitka fleet member Allie Spurlock and through an online “Fisheries of the United States” course (taught by Sitka Salmon Shares co-founder and president Nic Mink) that we will offer to our members and the general public in May,” Harrell said. “All the proceeds from the fund will be evenly split across our 22 Sitka and Kodiak-based fleet members offering what we hope will be a meaningful bump in their season’s income.”

Alaskans Own community-supported seafood program opens 2020 membership sales

Alaskans Own (AO), a community-supported fishery (CSF) program run by the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA), has opened and is receiving subscription orders for the 2020 season.

Alaskans Own was the first community-supported fishery (CSF) program in Alaska. Now in its 11th year, AO was created to connect consumers to small-boat fishermen, ensure that more fish caught in Alaska stays in Alaska, and create a sustainable source of revenue to support ALFA’s Fishery Conservation Network, which engages fishermen and scientists in conservation and research initiatives.

Similar to community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, CSF programs address an important environmental and socio-economic need by strengthening consumer-producer relationships. By forward-funding a season of seafood, subscribers invest in sustainable harvest and the rural fishermen who catch their fish, as well as supporting the web of seafood-related jobs that provide the economic backbone for our coastal communities.

New this year, Alaskans Own is working with Seafood Producers Cooperative on the AO website for people to donate to cover a box of IQF (individually quick frozen) fillets delivered to the doors of Sitka’s families in need. Boxes are $30 and weigh approximately 10 pounds. Families will be identified through partnering Sitka wellness and aid programs. The donating person can specify a family to receive the box or allow families in need to be identified through mutual aid programs such as SAFV (Sitkans Against Family Violence) and other programs.. SAFV shelter is happy to take weekly donations.

ALFA and SPC are covering costs and will adjust as appropriate. Additional funding support for this program is welcomed.

There are four-month and six-month subscriptions available starting in May. The six-month subscriptions allow people to keep receiving fish through October instead of August, when the traditional four-month subscriptions end. Subscriptions include a mix of premium locally hook-and-line caught black cod (sablefish), halibut, king salmon, coho salmon, lingcod and rockfish, depending on the commercial fishing season and prices.

Alaskans Own has just released its 2020 prices, which are the same as the 2019 prices — choose either monthly installments or pay all at once and receive 5 percent off. Alaskans Own is currently doing a spring sale, where customers receive 10 percent off their entire order, including CSF shares, by using code Discount10 at checkout. Also, there is free shipping via Alaska Airlines Cargo for orders over 20 pounds.

CSF Prices:

  • Four-Month Feed-A-Few share (5 lbs/month, May-August, 20 lbs total), $375 paid in full or $99 monthly payment ($396 total for four months)
  • Six-Month Feed-A-Few share (5 lbs/month, May-October, 30 lbs total), $565 paid in full or $99 monthly payment ($594 total for six months)

In addition to the Feed-A-Few option, there also are larger Feed-A-Family and Feed-A-Neighborhood options for folks who need more fish than what’s in the regular package. Besides the monthly shares there are a variety of other packages, including different sampler boxes and individual species orders of wild-caught, flash-frozen, high-quality seafood available on the AO website.

In a Feb. 2019 customer survey taken by 40 randomly-selected Alaskans Own CSF subscribers, more than 73 percent gave their overall experience the highest possible rating, 5 out of 5 stars, which was designated as “very satisfied.” The survey asked CSF members what they liked best about Alaskans Own CSF, and the most common answers were excellent, great quality seafood, the variety of species, and supporting local, Alaskan fishermen.

Alaskans Own not only connects consumers with the local fishermen who caught their seafood, which is so important for transparency of the seafood supply chain, it also gives customers the opportunity to give to conservation projects because all AO profits go to the Fishery Conservation Network.

Customers who don’t live in one of Alaskans Own’s CSF cities (Sitka, Juneau, Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Seattle) can also partake by setting up a custom order with the Alaskans Own staff. The AO staff can be reached at alaskansownfish@gmail.com or (907) 747-3400.

Shares and seafood boxes can be purchased on the AO online store at alaskansown.com, and the deadline to order for this year is May 15.

Alaskans Own is a non-profit, community supported fisheries program. Joining Alaskans Own is about a lot more than buying great fish. It’s an investment in the health of both fish and fisherman, in a cleaner environment, more vibrant local economies and a better future for Alaska. Learn more about our Fishery Conservation Network at alfafish.org. You can follow the the Alaskans Own program on Facebook and on Instagram.

• Alaskans Own seafood brochure (from 2019, info still good, opens as PDF document)

Fish to Schools program launches annual coho salmon donation drive for commercial fishermen

The Annual Fish to Schools Coho Donation Drive starts on Monday, Aug. 19.

The Sitka Fish to Schools program brings communities together around a food that is culturally, traditionally, and economically important to Sitka. By integrating locally caught seafood into Sitka school lunch programs, Fish to Schools fosters a deeper youth understanding of local seafood, teaching children that salmon require respect in both harvest and habitat. Coordinated by the Sitka Conservation Society, the hope is this program will lay the groundwork on how fishing works and inspires children to either support or become involved in the industry.

Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School student Naomi Capp, age 9, talks with fisherman Steve Lawrie Wednesday (April 25, 2018) during lunch 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 fish dishes 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. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

The Fish to Schools program (click here to see short video) started as a community wellness project of the 2010 Sitka Health Summit. It quickly spread from providing one monthly fish option in one Sitka school lunch to providing weekly fish options at all Sitka schools (including some not in the Sitka School District). The Sitka Fish to Schools program has been used as a model for school districts all over the state, and helps teachers with lesson plans about fishing in Alaska. The program also seeks photos of commercial fishermen at work, which can be used to teach the students more about how the fish got to their plates.

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.

While the donation drive targets commercially caught FAS (frozen at sea) coho salmon, there is room for yelloweye rockfish donations. But please don’t target yelloweye rockfish for the program — it only wants yelloweye that are accidentally caught.

The drive will run from Aug. 19 through Sept. 5. To donate, tell scale operators how many fish you would like to donate as you offload at Seafood Producers Cooperative or Sitka Sound Seafoods. The program can only accept commercially caught fish (no sport or subsistence fish).

If you have any additional questions, please contact Heather Bauscher of the Sitka Conservation Society at (907) 747-7509 or heather@sitkawild.org.

Fish to Schools program launches coho salmon and rockfish donation drive for commercial fishermen

The Fish to Schools program needs help from Sitka’s commercial fishermen. The program needs a few hundred pounds of coho salmon and rockfish to help make Fish to Schools meals for Sitka students during the upcoming 2018-19 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. 20, through Sunday, Sept. 2. 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 salmon and rockfish donated that locally caught fish can be offered to students at least once a week. Sign-up sheets will be posted at the scale shacks and in the main offices. Only coho salmon and rockfish will be accepted.

Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School student Naomi Capp, age 9, talks with fisherman Steve Lawrie Wednesday (April 25, 2018) during lunch 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 fish dishes 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. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

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 SchoolKeet Gooshi Heen Elementary SchoolBlatchley Middle SchoolSitka High SchoolPacific High School (where the alternative high school students cook the meals themselves), the SEER School, and Mount Edgecumbe High School.

In 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 Chandler O’Connell of the Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509 or email chandler@sitkawild.org. If you would like to donate FAS (frozen at sea) fish, please call or text Lexi Fish Hackett at 738-5684.

Fish to Schools program launches coho salmon donation drive for commercial fishermen

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 2017-18 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 Wednesday. Aug. 16, through Thursday, 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. Sign-up sheets will be posted at the scale shacks and in the main offices. Only coho salmon will be accepted.

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 SchoolKeet Gooshi Heen Elementary SchoolBlatchley Middle SchoolSitka High SchoolPacific High School (where the alternative high school students cook the meals themselves), the SEER School, and Mount Edgecumbe High School.

In 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 at 747-7509 or email sophie@sitkawild.org. If you would like to donate FAS (frozen at sea) fish, please call or text Lexi Fish Hackett at 738-5684.

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

Spencer2

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 2016-17 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 Wednesday. Aug. 17, through Tuesday, Aug. 23. 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. Sign-up sheets will be posted at the scale shacks and in the main offices. Coho salmon is preferred.

Excited red haired kidThe 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.

In 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 at sophie@sitkawild.org or 747-7509.

• 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.