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Serving Fish and Locally Harvested Foods for School Lunches

At school districts across Alaska, students can sit down for school lunch and be served locally harvested, Alaska-grown ingredients. That includes locally caught salmon and other types of fish in Sitka schools and Alaska blueberries in the North Slope.

Sitka School District — Serving locally caught wild fish at school lunch

Sitka School District— Serving locally caught wild fish at school lunch

Sitka, an island community of about 9,000 residents in Southeast Alaska, is known for its local wild salmon. Now, that fish is being served to children at school. Every Wednesday in Sitka, students in all schools can eat locally caught fish during school lunch. Watch this video to see how the Fish-to-Schools program works in the Sitka School District

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 for children.

"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 fish provide lean protein, as well as omega-3 fatty acids that are healthy for the heart and brain development. Sitka's program organizers and local fishermen say the Fish-to-Schools program nourishes their children and gives them more opportunities to eat locally caught fish.

Many local commercial fishermen legally donate their catch to the Sitka school district's lunch program. All fish that's provided to school children must be processed in a facility that meets state guidelines. The Sitka School District also buys fish needed for lunches, and a grant helps fund the program.

North Slope Borough School District — Serving halibut and Alaska-grown ingredients at school

In the North Slope Borough School District​, Geno Ceccarelli made many healthy changes since he arrived as food service manager over five years ago. Today, he serves as much fresh, whole foods in the schools as possible. He even found a way to serve fresh halibut in school lunches through an Alaska Grown grant.

Ceccarelli first visited Utqiaġvik, formerly called Barrow, six years ago as a volunteer for a camp. He said he was surprised by the amount of processed food he found in the freezer. That included processed fish sticks. Ceccarelli put fresh fish on the menu. From 2015-2017, he prepared and served fresh halibut from Norton Sound through the grant. He said the fish was well received and was highly missed when the grant ended.

Ceccarelli said he incorporates other Alaska-grown ingredients into his food service program. He mixes Alaska blueberries and honey into a healthy version of a snack that's baked with lentils, oatmeal, sunbutter and cinnamon.

"The kiddos love them," he said. Ceccarelli makes his foods low in added sugar and salt.

This is what Alaska communities are doing to help kids grow up healthy. What can your community do? Click here to find more ideas to provide healthy foods, drinks and physical activity for kids.​​ ​​​​​​