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

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The Fish to Schools program needs help from Sitka’s commercial fishermen. The program needs 500 pounds of coho salmon to help make Fish to Schools meals for Sitka students during the upcoming school year.

“Please donate a few of your fish at the closure of the second king opener to Fish to Schools this August and help us meet our goal to get locally caught coho in all Sitka schools,” Fish to Schools program coordinator Tracy Gagnon said. “We’re also collecting photos of you (fishermen) in action — please email a photo of you on the water.”

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 School,Blatchley Middle School, Sitka High School, Pacific 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.

To donate, sign up in the main offices at Seafood Producers Cooperative or Sitka Sound Seafoods. The program can only accept commercially caught fish (no sport or subsistence fish).

For more information, contact Tracy Gagnon at Sitka Conservation Society, tracy@sitkawild.org or 747-7509.

• Sitka Conservation Society adult 4-H program offers backcountry cooking classes

SCS_Backcountry Cooking Series_Summer2014

The Sitka Conservation Society is offering an adult 4-H program, with the first offering a backcountry cooking class series in June and July. We’ll be teaching you how to cook delicious meals for your next camping or backpacking trip following Leave No Trace (LNT) principles.

Classes are from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, June 19, June 26, July 10, and July 17. The first class is required — you’ll learn backcountry cooking basics and LNT principles. The following three classes you can pick and choose from. We’ll focus on a different meal each evening, but you can expect things like pizza, cinnamon rolls, and home-made dehydrated meals.

Space is limited and registration is required. The class location will be given when you register. Classes are $6 for Sitka Conservation Society members, and $10 for non-SCS members. For more information, call the Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509, or contact Mary Wood at mary@sitkawild.org or Tracy Gagnon at tracy@sitkawild.org.

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

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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

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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

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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

• Sitka’s ‘Fish To Schools’ program puts out call to commercial fishermen for donations

Fishermen_Donation_Updated Aug2013

The Fish To Schools program in Sitka has put out the call looking for donations of commercially caught fish for the upcoming school year. Donations are being accepted from Aug. 18-25 at Sitka Sound Seafoods and Seafood Producers Cooperative. (NOTE, the time period for donations has been extended. Please call the numbers below to see if more fish still is needed.)

SCS-031_smFishToSchoolsTacoThe 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 Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, Blatchley Middle School, Sitka High School, Pacific High School (where the alternative high school students cook the meals themselves) 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.

Due to state regulations, the Sitka Fish To Schools program can only accept donations of fish that have been commercially caught, and it cannot accept fish from sport or subsistence fishermen. The donation period is timed with the coho salmon season, and fishermen can get more information or pledge a donation by contacting Beth Short-Rhodes at 738-9942 or elianise@yahoo.com.

For more information about the Fish To Schools program, contact Tracy Gagnon at the Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509 or tracy@sitkawild.org.

• Join us at the Fish to Schools benefit dinner on Wednesday, April 25

Come help Sitkans support the award-winning Fish to Schools program by attending a benefit dinner from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 25, at Sweetland Hall on the Sheldon Jackson Campus.

This benefit dinner will include a presentation of the grand prize of the Alaska Farm to Schools Challenge for the 2011-12 school year, which will be presented by Johanna Herron of the Alaska Department of Resources. The benefit features a local seafood dinner of crispy oven-baked rockfish prepared by chef Colette Nelson of Ludvig’s Bistro and students from Pacific High School’s food services program.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and students, and $5 for youth age 18 and younger, and they can be purchased at Old Harbor Books. All proceeds benefit the Sitka Fish to Schools program that brings regular fish meal choices to students at Blatchley Middle School, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School and Pacific High School.

The Fish to Schools program (link goes to April 15 Juneau Empire article) was a community health project from the 2010 Sitka Health Summit, and the Sitka Conservation Society has been managing the 2-year-old program in partnership with the Sitka School District, local fishermen and other community partners. For more information about the Fish to Schools program, contact Tracy Gagnon of the Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509 or tracy@sitkawild.org.

• Sitka’s ‘Fish to Schools’ project to be honored during Wednesday’s fish lunch at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School

Sitka’s Fish to Schools project will be honored with the grand prize of the Alaska Farm to School Challenge during the fish lunch from 11:20 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 11, at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School. Alaska First Lady Sandy Parnell and Alaska Division of Agriculture Director Franci Havermeister will be in attendance to present the award.

Sitka’s Fish to Schools project came out of the 2010 Sitka Health Summit, when increasing access to locally harvest fish in school menus was chosen as one of the community’s top four health priorities for the year. The project started with a monthly fish lunch entrée option at Blatchley Middle School, then expanded to Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary and Pacific High School. The program now is twice-monthly, and it has grown with the support of the Sitka Conservation Society, Sitka School District, local fishermen, and other community members. The program has become a successful model for what can be done in other parts of the state.

“We are excited to honor Sitka in its efforts, and appreciate that First Lady Sandy Parnell also see the value in projects like this that highlight both Alaska’s youth and natural resource bounty,” Havermeister said in a press release.

For more information about Sitka’s Fish to Schools program, contact Tracy Gagnon at 747-7509 or tracy@sitkawild.org.

• Let’s Grow Sitka garden education event is Sunday, March 11, at ANB Hall

Mark your calendars, because the 2012 “Let’s Grow Sitka” gardening education event opens at noon and runs until 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 11, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall on Katlian Street. Don’t forget to set your clocks to spring forward so you can get ready to grow.

This annual event brings together local garden supply stores, local gardeners, landscapers and anybody who is interested in learning how to grow food and/or flowers. Sitka Local Foods Network Vice President Linda Wilson, who is coordinating the event with SLFN Board Member Cathy Lieser, was interviewed during the Morning Edition show Thursday on KCAW-Raven Radio and she provided more details about this event (click the link to listen to the interview), which helps Sitka residents get excited about the upcoming garden season.

There will be a wide variety of individuals and businesses with booths for the event, with some booths providing gardening information geared toward and others selling gardening supplies. Lunch will be available for purchase. Here is a tentative list of some of those planning to host booths:

  • Linda Wilson, Sitka Farmers Market, Grow a Row for the Market
  • Cathy Lieser, Let’s Grow Sitka, Sitka Local Foods Network
  • Doug Osborne. Sitka Local Foods Network?
  • Johanna Willingham, Pacific H.S./Sitka Farmers Market backup.
  • Jud Kirkness, Sicka Waste compost project, Fruit tree map
  • Tom Hart, compost, NZ composter ?
  • Kerry MacLane. Pest management
  • Lisa Sadleir-Hart. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm
  • Laura Schmidt, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm/Seed swap & share
  • Maybelle Filler, ???
  • Stanley Schoening, Chickens, fig trees, UAF Cooperative Extension Service
  • Judy Johnstone, High Tunnel program
  • David Lendrum, Guest speaker 3:15, info on new/unusual varieties for Southeast Alaska
  • Jeren Schmidt, Sitka Spruce Catering, lunch for purchase
  • Robert Gorman, UAF Cooperative Extension Service, history of Experimental Station
  • Andrianna Natsoulas, Food Sovereignty
  • Tracy Gagnon, Sitka 4H Club
  • Eve Grutter, Chickens, produce
  • Adam Chinalski, Model greenhouse
  • Penny Brown, Garden Ventures – products for sale
  • Amanda Grearson, True Value – products for sale
  • Lowell Frank, Spenard Building Supply Garden Center ??
  • Michelle Putz, Locally grown environmental benefits?
  • Rick Peterson, Gardening 101 – easiest to grow, need to amend soil, etc…
  • Lori Adams, Down-to-Earth U-Pick Garden – garden promotion and information
  • Mike Tackaberry/Robin Grewe, White’s Inc. – products for sale
  • Mandy Summers, Pacific High School
  • Kelly Smitherman, National Park Service – garden at Bishops House, etc…
  • Lisa Teas, Sitka Farmers Market art debut
  • Florence Welsh, Forget-Me-Not Gardens, local garden booklet, possible plant starts
  • Hope Merritt, Gimbal Botanicals herbal teas – info on wild herbs and herbs to grow

Right after the three-hour Let’s Grow Sitka event ends, guest speaker Dave Lendrum of Juneau will speak at 3:15 p.m. on “New Vegetable Varieties, Small Fruits, and Ornamentals for Southeast Alaska.” Lendrum is a landscape designer who just finished a two-year term as president of the Southeast Alaska Master Gardener Association and with his landscape architect wife, Margaret Tharp, owns Landscape Alaska.

Dave’s life has evolved in partnership with the natural world. He grew up in California on an organic u-pick vegetable farm, learning horticulture from his parents and the 4H club. He did nursery work and continued his post-college adventure in Ecuador by starting a fresh market produce business. After being a city horticulturist at the Eugene (Ore.) Parks Department, Dave started his first nursery, Western Oregon Perennials. A few years later, he found himself in a high-temperature photosynthesis lab at Stanford. In the Pacific Northwest, Dave restored old estate gardens. When he heard Alaska’s call, he moved north to Elfin Cove. Dave and his wife started Landscape Alaska in Juneau 28 years ago. They design and build landscapes on every scale and have won numerous awards both locally and nationally. In addition, Dave is the landscape superintendent for the University of Alaska Southeast and the Southeast representative on the statewide invasive species organization (SNIPM).

For more information about Let’s Grow Sitka, contact Linda Wilson at 747-3096 (evenings, weekends) or lawilson87@hotmail.com, or Cathy Lieser at 978-2572. The two event fliers for this event are posted below as Adobe Acrobat files (PDF files).

• Main flier for 2012 Let’s Grow Sitka event

• Flier for Dave Lendrum presentation after Let’s Grow Sitka event ends

• Pacific High School and Sitka Conservation Society partner up to serve local fish in school lunches

Pacific High School student Jessie Young, left, co-principal Sarah Ferrency, center, and lunch coordinator Johanna Willingham load rockfish into the freezer at Pacific High School. an alternative high school in Sitka, Alaska. (PHOTO COURTESY OF TRACY GAGNON / SITKA CONSERVATION SOCIETY)

Pacific High School student Jessie Young, left, co-principal Sarah Ferrency, center, and lunch coordinator Johanna Willingham load rockfish into the freezer at Pacific High School. an alternative high school in Sitka, Alaska. (PHOTO COURTESY OF TRACY GAGNON / SITKA CONSERVATION SOCIETY)

Pacific High School now serves local seafood in the cafeteria and joins the growing ranks of schools connecting to local foods. Starting Wednesday, Feb. 1, Pacific High students will have a choice of local seafood dishes twice a month due to a partnership with the Sitka Conservation Society.

Sitka, Alaska, is the ninth largest fishing port in the country, but only recently did school children have access to the abundance of local seafood in school lunches. The project began in 2010 after getting more fish in school lunches was voted on as one of Sitka’s four health priorities at the Sitka Health Summit. The Sitka Conservation Society took the lead on the project and partnered with Blatchley Middle School in the winter of 2010-11 school year and then with Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School in 2011-12 to launch a Fish to Schools program. Due to the success of that program, it has evolved and spread to another school in the community.

Tracy Gagnon, Fish to Schools coordinator at Sitka Conservation Society said, “To kick off the new partnership, SCS’s Fish to Schools program will cook with Pacific High students to rally support for local fish lunches. A favorite recipe will be chosen for an upcoming Fish to Schools benefit.”

LOCALLY MADE– Americorps Volunteer Lauren Hahn, left, and Pacific High School students in the culinary arts program, Brendan Didrickson and Jenny Jeter, prepare a lunch of Caribbean rockfish with sweet potato fries, baked apples and wild rice at the school on Wednesday, Feb. 1. This was the first Pacific High lunch in the Fish to Schools program. The program began in 2010 as a Sitka Health Summit project when Sitka Conservation Society joined Blatchley Middle School to serve locally caught fish in school lunches. Since then, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School and now Pacific High have joined the twice-monthly program. On Wednesday, Feb. 8, SCS is inviting commercial fishers to join students at Keet for lunch. (Daily Sitka Sentinel photo by James Poulson, printed in the Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012, edition)

LOCALLY MADE– Americorps Volunteer Lauren Hahn, left, and Pacific High School students in the culinary arts program, Brendan Didrickson and Jenny Jeter, prepare a lunch of Caribbean rockfish with sweet potato fries, baked apples and wild rice at the school on Wednesday, Feb. 1. This was the first Pacific High lunch in the Fish to Schools program. The program began in 2010 as a Sitka Health Summit project when Sitka Conservation Society joined Blatchley Middle School to serve locally caught fish in school lunches. Since then, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School and now Pacific High have joined the twice-monthly program. On Wednesday, Feb. 8, SCS is inviting commercial fishers to join students at Keet for lunch. (Daily Sitka Sentinel photo by James Poulson, printed in the Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012, edition)

Unlike at the middle and elementary schools, Pacific High (the Sitka School District’s alternative high school) has more flexibility in the dishes it prepares with local fish. For example, the first Pacific High local seafood lunch will be Caribbean rockfish with sweet potato fries, baked apples and wild rice. Students help prepare the meals through the school’s culinary arts program. Every student earns their food handlers’ card and annually they cycle through a six-week cooking class. Students graduate high school with enough experience to enter into the cooking industry, bringing with them the knowledge to prepare scratch meals with healthy and local ingredients.

“We are striving to change the system by incorporating more local and traditional foods that the students want to eat,” said Johanna Willingham, Pacific High School lunch coordinator. “Through our innovative food-based meal program, the students are learning valuable life skills by developing recipes they enjoy and cooking with their local bounty.”

The Fish to Schools program creates new partnerships by uniting the local conservation organization and high school with community-based processors and fishermen. That partnership allows more students access to healthy lunches, as fish are packed with vitamins, proteins and omega-3 fatty acids that promote healthy hearts and healthy brains.

“Our community depends on the fish that comes out of the ocean, yet our school lunches were so disconnected from our local resources,” said Beth Short-Rhoads, Fish to Schools volunteer organizer, mother and fishing woman. “Thanks to Fish to Schools, our children now have access to local seafood. The fact that it is incredibly healthy is an even bigger bonus.”

There are more than 9,000 schools across the United States involved with local Farm to Schools programs. The majority of the programs serve land-based foods in the cafeterias, so Pacific High adds another layer by providing local seafood to students. This is an exciting opportunity to be part of the growing farm — or fish — to school movement across the country,” Gagnon said.

The Fish to Schools program also serves up local fish dishes at Blatchley Middle School and Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School on the second and fourth Wednesdays during the school year. On Wednesday, Feb. 8, the program is honoring local commercial fishermen by inviting them to join the students at lunch so they can share the meal and answer questions the students may have about the fish. (Editor’s note: On Feb. 6, Tracy Gagnon, Beth Short-Rhoads and students Grace Gjertsen, Zofia Danielson and Sienna Reid were interviewed by Robert Woolsey about the We Love Our Fishermen! promotion on the Morning Edition show on KCAW-Raven Radio.)

The Sitka Conservation Society has been working to protect the temperate rain forest of Southeast Alaska and Sitka’s quality of life since 1967. SCS is based in the small coastal town of Sitka, in the heart of the Tongass National Forest, the nation’s largest national forest. For more information, go to http://www.sitkawild.org. To learn more about the Fish to Schools program, contact Tracy Gagnon at tracy@sitkawild.org or 747-7509.