The purpose: To provide healthy and local proteins to students, to support NH fishermen by developing new markets for sustainable species of fish caught in the Gulf of Maine, and to educate the next generation of fish eaters and consumers.
The project: Get fish caught by a NH fisherman onto to the lunch trays of schools on the seacoast. The project began with a fish tasting by school food service directors. The Yankee Fisherman’s Cooperative supplied Hake, Dogfish, Pollock, and Redfish for the tasting. We tried Hake cakes, spicy Pollock sandwiches, Redfish tacos, and Dogfish with herb parmesan breadcrumbs. This event also featured Padi Anderson of Granite State Fish, Erik Chapman of NH Sea Grant, and Spencer Montgomery of UNH Slowfish. They were able to offer information on the current state of ground fishing in the Gulf of Maine and the need for the development of new markets for underutilized but sustainable species of fish. Read more about this event here.
In November of 2014, NH Community Seafood, Spencer, and I worked together along with eight seacoast schools to plan a fish to school day in December. Redfish was going to be served! The fish was landed in Portland, shipped to Tri State Seafood in Somersworth for processing, and distributed to the schools the day before it was to be served by Spencer and myself, using the NH Community Seafood van.
Each school prepared the Redfish differently and served it as an option for lunch. Recipes included panko and lemon encrusted redfish, fish tacos, Cajun style fish, and fish with broccoli and cheese. In several of the schools, we offered an education table in the cafeteria where students could see and touch a whole Redfish and learn more about sustainable species of fish. According to the school food service directors, the students who had the fish really liked it. Some students remarked they prefer the fresh fish over the fish sticks that are sometimes served. Schools would like to have access to fresh fish more often but obtaining it just using NH infrastructure for off-loading, processing, and distribution is not easy or really possible on a regular basis at this time.
Next Steps: NH Farm to School is looking into other options in Maine and Massachusetts to supply seacoast schools and beyond with fresh fish while still supporting our NH fishermen. A number of workshops, including sea to school, are happening around sustainable seafood at the upcoming Farm to Institute Summit in April. More information about this event can be found here.
Stacey Purslow is the coordinator of the NH Farm to School Program at the Sustainability Institute at the University of New Hampshire.