Kodiak students who eat school lunches have already started filling their bellies with Alaska-grown products.
The Nutritional Alaskan Foods in Schools grant program, announced in August, gave $3 million to schools statewide as a way to get children to eat foods grown in Alaska, while also helping Alaska’s economy.
“It’s an opportunity for Kodiak to spend $55,000 on statewide locally harvested foods,” district superintendent Stewart McDonald said. “Whether it’s milk or fish, we will be seeking a way to buy Alaskan grown or harvested food.”
Qualifying items include livestock raised in Alaska, milk produced from Alaskan livestock, shellfish caught or harvested in Alaska waters, native produce, poultry grown in Alaska and grain harvested in Alaska.
District purchasing supervisor Sandy Daws said the kids are already eating Alaska-grown produce. The district spent $5,000 of the grant money on produce for the first three weeks of school. The district only has one more order of produce scheduled, and then it’s done using the money for produce because there just isn’t enough Alaskan produce to go around to all of the schools.
“One of the challenges we’re facing is notifications with farmers were so late,” Daws said. “There is a challenge with the quantities of produce for all schools to use the grant money. We knew everybody was going to try to get their hands on the produce so we tried to spend as much up front as we could.”
Produce will become available again in the spring, but until then Daws’ alternative is to buy seafood.
Daws said she plans to contact Kodiak’s seafood processors to see what the district can purchase in bulk from them. She’s looking at the possibility of adding one or two fish dishes to the lunch menu each month but said it may be difficult to get kids to eat fish.
“Fish is a tricky one in schools,” Daws said. “It’s hard when one day you’ve got pizza and then you do a fish patty. Most adults don’t even eat fish until they’re older. It’s trying to get it in there and get something the kids like to eat.”
Daws said kids will eat fish sticks or fish nuggets, so she’s considering a salmon patty or some sort of breaded dish. It all depends on what type of fish she can get from Kodiak’s processors.
This is the first year the Nutritional Alaskan Food in Schools program has been in effect, but Daws hopes it will continue in future years.
“We’re hoping to get it again,” Daws said. “That’s why we’re trying to be as creative as possible and use the money they gave to us.”
The food purchased will be used in rural schools as well as schools in town.