It’s Wednesday, so children attending elementary schools in Sitka will have fish sandwiches made with Alaska pollock, peas and carrots for lunch.
That’s because the Sitka School District has a special program that serves locally harvested fish during hot lunch once a week — on Wednesdays — at all of its schools. Watch this video to see how the program works in the Sitka School District.
Sitka, an island community of about 9,000 residents in Southeast Alaska, is known for its local wild salmon. Every year, Sitka hosts a health summit. Community members pick goals to improve the health of their residents. Serving locally caught wild salmon and fish in schools became the goal at the 2010 summit. This program is now called Fish to Schools, and it relies on several partnerships with the Sitka Conservation Society and local fishermen.
Fish like wild salmon have health benefits. Fish provides:
"It's just really good for you, while tasting so good," said Eric Jordan, a Sitka fisherman who donates some of his catch to the program.
The school chefs at Sitka School District provide the children with a lot of variety when serving fish at lunch. They prepare baked salmon, fish nuggets, sweet and sour rockfish, salmon chowder and more.
“Now we’re doing homemade fish nuggets, our version of fish and chips, which is like the rockfish or the halibut when we have that. We take it, roll it in corn starch, dip it in a fat-free ranch, roll it in some herbed Panko (bread crumbs), and it’s baked. And it retains the moisture and the flavor and the seasonings,” said Jo Michalski, executive chef for the Sitka School District.
Strategies like these may work in other schools. Talk about these ideas with your school districts, PTAs, principals and wellness committees to see if they could work in your communities and schools. Read more online about other strategies schools across Alaska are using to make healthy foods, drinks and physical activity available to more children.