Local fish on school menu Tuesday
Local fish will make its inaugural appearance on the Haines Borough School District’s lunch menu Tuesday.
The plan is for it to be served once each month, as long as it’s available from local vendors, said Genevieve Armstrong, the district’s food-program director.
“It’s been a well-collaborated effort between the fishing fleet, the school, the Takshanuk Watershed Council and Dejon Delights,” said Pam Randles, Takshanuk Watershed Council Education Program Coordinator.
Serving local fish is a move to include more local foods in school-offered meals. It joins the vegetables grown by students in the soil derived from the lunch scraps students feed to the “Starvin’ Marvin” compost bins.
“We incorporate the harvest as it comes with the daily offerings,” Armstrong said.
The fish, which is provided by locals and then processed by Dejon Delights, will be paid for with money from a Nutritional Alaskan Foods for Schools Grant Award.
“This is our set-up year,” Randles said. “We want to bring in as much fresh food as possible from the community. The school district is fully supportive of this.”
Armstrong grew up in rural Montana and believes strongly in sustainable agriculture. She hopes that local co-ops might form and take the steps to be recognized by the Department of Environmental Health Safety and Sanitation for items such as eggs, livestock, fruits and vegetables.
“If the planning begins now, plantings and animal numbers can be adjusted to meet the needs of the school food service,” she said.
Baked teriyaki-glazed salmon will be served Tuesday. Lilly Boron’s cooking class also will be experimenting this week with various recipes in an effort to find “kid-friendly” fish dishes that can be prepared easily.
“But because it’s the Gourmet Cooking class, we will take it a step further and work with some lovely, mouthwatering recipes that include ginger soy glaze and mango-avocado relish,” Boron said.
Armstrong encourages younger children to give her a “no-thank-you” bite when something new is offered. “Often times they end up eating more of it once they learn what it is or tastes like.”
Local fish isn’t the only change to this year’s school menu.
“We are trying a lot of new menus this year to be in compliance with the new federal regulations for the school lunch and breakfast program,” she said.
Students working in the kitchen will “act as ambassadors,” she said. “They can tell their peers or siblings that they made or helped make that dish. ‘It’s good. Try it.’”
Boron said it’s also the first year that the cooking class will be serving lunches in biodegradable and compostable containers.
Sitka preceded Haines in serving local fish in its schools. The Sitka Conservation Society has sponsored a Fish-to-Schools program for the past two years, according to its website. Students are offered local fish twice a month on the school menu. During one year, local fish lunch consumption almost doubled at the middle school with an average of 39 percent of students choosing such offerings as rockfish tacos.
The United States Department of Agriculture awarded Sitka’s Fish-to-Schools program the Best Farm to School Project in Alaska for the 2011-2012 school year. The Farm to School Program is an effort to improve the health and nutrition of kids receiving school meals.