• Sitka Health Summit project to get more fish in school lunches to start pilot study

From left, Lexi Fish, Linda Wilson and Kerry MacLane serve up fish tacos at Pacific High recently. At right are Sitka School Board President Lon Garrison and Superintendent Steve Bradshaw. The Sitka School District is considering adding locally caught fish to the school lunch program. (Daily Sitka Sentinel photo by James Poulson)

From left, Lexi Fish, Linda Wilson and Kerry MacLane serve up fish tacos at Pacific High recently. At right are Sitka School Board President Lon Garrison and Superintendent Steve Bradshaw. The Sitka School District is considering adding locally caught fish to the school lunch program. (Daily Sitka Sentinel photo by James Poulson)

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.)

• Daily Sitka Sentinel article from Nov. 24, 2010 — Schools Hope to Hook Students on Fish

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• Planting fruit trees in Sitka and getting more seafood into local school meals are 2010 Sitka Health Summit projects

Cherry blossoms at Blatchley Community Garden

Cherry blossoms at Blatchley Community Garden

When Sitka residents met for the community planning day during the Sitka Health Summit earlier this month, two of the four health priority projects they chose to work on this year centered around local food issues.

One of the projects is to plant 200 fruit trees — apples, crabapples or cherry trees — in Sitka by the next Sitka Health Summit on Sept. 30-Oct. 1, 2011. The other food-related project is to get more locally caught wild fish into school lunch menus.

Both groups already are making progress toward their goals, and public meetings have been organized so Sitka residents can participate.

The fruit tree planting group meets from 7-8:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 25, at The Loft (408 Oja Way, Suite A, located across the residential street and a couple of buildings over from the Sitka Police Department’s side entry door on Oja Way). Apple cider and an apple dish will be offered.

All Sitka residents are welcome, especially those who have grown fruit trees in Sitka or Southeast Alaska and can share their experiences. Group member Lisa Sadleir-Hart created a brief survey about fruit trees in Sitka, and you can answer it by clicking this link, http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/QPWMJ3N. Please complete the survey, even if you can’t attend the meeting. The group temporarily is being facilitated by Kari Lundgren, who can be reached at 738-2089 for more information.

Black cod (aka sablefish) on the grill from the Alaska Longline Fisherman's Association booth at the Sitka Farmers Market

Black cod (aka sablefish) on the grill from the Alaska Longline Fisherman's Association booth at the Sitka Farmers Market

The wild fish for school lunches group has been meeting with officials with the Sitka School District and Mt. Edgecumbe High School, local fish vendors, catchers and processors, to see what they can do to get more locally caught wild fish — salmon, halibut, cod, sablefish, rockfish, etc. — served in Sitka schools.

The wild fish group’s first meeting will be for a fish lunch at noon on Friday, Nov. 19, at Pacific High School. Some people will show up at 11 a.m. to help cook the fish, which will be served at noon, and the actual meeting will be from 12:30-1:30 p.m. at the Southeast Alaska Career Center (located right behind Pacific High School). To learn more about the group, contact Kerry MacLane at 752-0654 or maclanekerry@yahoo.com.