Fish for Kids is another example of how feeding schoolchildren locally-sourced foods benefits the kids and the community.
Five years ago, Dillingham school district lunch lady Patty Luckhurst decided that fish nuggets – breaded, salty, imported, farmed fish which had to be flown in from somewhere else – were not good enough for the kids who ate in her cafeteria. Fortunately, Dillingham, Alaska is located in the middle of a very productive wild salmon fishery. That same year, the local cannery had switched from canning salmon to flash freezing the fillets, better preserving the nutrition and flavor.
She approached the supervisor of the local Peter Pan Seafood cannery and they worked out a deal. Fishermen would donate a portion of their catch during the short salmon season, Peter Pan Seafood would donate the time and labor involved in processing the salmon, and the school district would have flash-frozen, local salmon for their Fish Fridays.
The savings to the school and kids was surprising. The salmon had 543.5 mg less sodium per serving than the breaded fish, 2 g more protein, 7.5 g more omega-3 fatty acids, and no sugar. (I had no idea that breaded fish had sugar in it, but it does.) The savings to the school district was $14,511.
The program has proven so popular, it has spread to other local villages. Family members are invited to eat in the lunchroom with the kids and enjoy the fish. The senior center in Dillingham is also a recipient of the donated fish.
Fish for Kids set a goal of 12,000 pounds and reached it this year (and most years before), sending close to 5,000 pounds of salmon fillets to the school lunchrooms of Dillingham and the surrounding area.
Salmon photo via Shutterstock