Sea to School program puts local seafood on students’ trays

Boston Bay is known to have some of the freshest Atlantic Ocean seafood, featured proudly on local restaurant menus. For the first time, area schools are also now incorporating that famous and readily available resource into their cafeterias.

Working with local fishermen and distributors, Massachusetts schools have been at the forefront of using locally sourced species of fish in school menus. Two Martha’s Vineyard schools started one of the nation’s first “Catch of the Day” themes this past December. West Tisbury Elementary has offered choices like fish chowder, homemade fishcakes and fish tacos as some of its recent Friday menu options. The program has started to spread across the country, bringing a “Stream to Plate” program into Alaskan cafeterias as well. The Bristol Bay Borough School District in Naknek (AK) has incorporated local wild Alaskan pollock (pictured above) to their Friday school menus.

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West Tisbury School (MA) served pollock chowder with local potatoes as a “Catch of the Day” option.

West Tisbury Cafeteria Director Jenny Devivo, who spearheaded the new local food intuitive in her school, explained that students learn where, when, how and by whom the fish are caught, adding another level to the educational component of the program.

West Tisbury School (MA) served pollack chowder with local potatoes as part of “Catch of the Day.”

After attending the Massachusetts Farm and Sea to School conference, where about 400 people discussed various ways to increase access to healthy and locally sourced food at schools, Devivo brought the trend to her school. While many districts are adopting Farm to School programs in the country, allowing students the opportunity to see where their meat, fruits and vegetables come from, this program pays homage to the “fruits” of the ocean.

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Gloucester Public Schools (MA) serve up freshly caught local New England Sole on their menu.

Devivo works the owner of a distribution company that employs over 350 local and 1,000 regional fishermen. She said in addition to his technology and freshness, she was impressed by how the company also promotes sustainable fishing practices. “That sort of transparency allows students to learn the importance of knowing where the food they’re eating comes from,” she said.

Other schools, like those in the Gloucester Public School District, say that underutilized and locally abundant species of fish, such as Acadian Redfish and New England Sole, are an affordable way to provide healthy options, costing schools about 75 cents per serving.

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