Check out this incredible video created by our good friend and local filmmaker, Hannah Guggenheim, documenting the “We Love our Fishermen Lunch” on 2/8/2012.
WE LOVE OUR FISHERMEN! The Fish to Schools Program began as a vision at the 2010 Sitka Health Summit and with community support and leadership from the Sitka Conservation Society, we are now working with over half of students enrolled in the Sitka School District. This program is a component of our Community Sustainability efforts and we hope through this program we can begin to build a stronger, more resilient local food system. Fish to Schools ensures that students, whose families may not generally be able to afford local fish, have access to it directly through the school lunch program. These lunches provide a boost of nutrients and Omega 3 fatty-acids, supports the sustainable fisheries of Alaska, and validates the backbone of this community and culture.
On February 8, 2012, fishermen were invited to both Keet and Blatchley Middle Schools. They joined students for their bi-monthly local fish lunch, bringing with them stories from the sea, fishing gear, and photos to make the connection between this profession and the fish on their plates. Both schools plastered the cafeterias with student-made posters, cards, and valentines thanking fishermen for their contribution to the program. Fishermen led students around the cafeteria with lures, created a longline set in the middle of the lunch room, and generated a lot of hype around the lunches.
Sitka Conservation Society would like the individually thank the following groups and individuals for making this special lunch a success: Seafood Producers Coop, Sitka Sound Seafoods, Nana Management Services, Staff at Keet and Blatchley, Beth Short, Wendy Alderson, Lexi Fish, Hannah Guggenheim, Andrianna Natsoulas, Jason Gjertsen, Terry Perensovich, Doug Rendle, Sarah Jordan, Eric Jordan, Matt Lawrie, Spencer Severson, Jeff Farvour, Beth Short-Rhodes, Stephen Rhodes, Kat Rhodes, Scott Saline, Charlie Skultka, Kent Barkau, Lew Schumejda, Bae Olney-Miller, and Jeff Christopher.
This lunch coincided with the beginning of the “Stream to Plate” lesson series with seventh graders in Ms. Papoi’s science class. The first of five lessons introduced students to how fish are caught in SE Alaska through subsistence, sport, and commercial fishing methods. The class began “back in time” as AK Native, Charlie Skultka, shared with students traditional methods of fish harvest. With models and relics from the SJ Museum, he demonstrated how fish traps and halibut hooks worked. Roby Littlefield, coordinator of Dog Point Fish Camp and Tlingit language instructor at Blatchley, showed students photos of students actually participating in current subsistence traditions. She told stories from camp and demonstrated how these practices continue today. Following their presentation, local fishermen Beth Short-Rhodes, Steven Rhodes, Jeff Farvour, and Steven Fish, shared with students how they commercially fish for salmon, halibut, rockfish, and blackcod. Students had the opportunity to interview and ask guests questions in small groups, developing a relationship with community members in town. This week students will learn about the importance of conservation and sustainability in fishing and more specifically how the Tongass is a Salmon Forest.
Listen to a live radio broadcast of the Sitka Conservation Society’s Fish to Schools Program. This program exemplifies our commitment to community sustainability by connecting students to local, healthy, and affordable seafood. Twice a month students are served local fish for lunch at Keet Gooshi Heen, Blatchley Middle School, and now Pacific High. To supplement the program, third and seventh grade students participate in a “Stream to Plate” curriculum, learning the story behind their lunch.
On this KCAW morning interview, Sitka students, Grace Gjertsen (3rd grade), Zofia Danielson (6th grade), and Sienna Reid (7th grade), join Beth Short and Tracy Gagnon to talk about the local fish lunches. These three students typically bring a lunch from home, but on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month, they stand in line for local fish. They share fishermen valentines and tell us why these lunches are so special. Check out the radio broadcast here.
Dear Sitka Conservation Society,
Thank you for bringing fish into our school, Pacific High School. You are not only forging a new path in the National School Lunch Program, you are changing the system. Each fish you provide to the schools in the district enriches our student’s nutrient profile as well as connecting them to their food source. Thank you for making Pacific High School’s Lunch Program the best it can be. The Fish to School Program supports an educational program that is in alignment with PHS’ belief in connecting each student to their surrounding environment and foodshed. We look forward to forging a lasting relationship between Fish to Schools and PHS for years to come.
School Lunch Coordinator
With so many programs already dedicated to teaching students about fish biology and lifecycle, The Sitka Conservation Society chose to take a different angle. We wanted to answer the question, “How did fish end up on our dinner plate?” Modeled after the Farm to School program, we developed a series of interactive lessons to illuminate the steps fish take from stream to plate. We invited a number community members and organizational partners into the classroom to share their part of the story.
We began with third graders in early October by teaching students about fishing methods. We answered the question, “How are fish caught?” Through a number of silly, hands-on activities, students learned the differences between commercial, sport, and traditional harvesting methods. To reinforce commercial methods, local fishermen were invited to give presentations on their chosen method(s). One fisherman father, Dan Falvey, went so far as to have students set a longline with baited hooks (magnets). After a good soak, students landed their catch… of paperclips!
Fishing, a familiar pastime for many of the students, was well understood. But less known was what to do with them next. Students were invited on a tour of Sitka Sound Seafoods, a local seafood processor, where they saw a boat unload fish, a halibut fillet demonstration, shrimp, crab, and sea cucumbers processed and packaged. Back in the classroom, Alaska Native Tom Gamble, took students through the process of gutting, filleting, and preserving the catch. He shared native traditions and emphasized respect for the salmon throughout the entire process for feeding him and his family.
Next in line was cooking, a final and very important step in the journey from stream to plate. Students gathered around wisps of steam as they watched Alaska Native, Charlie Skukla Jr., place fire-hot rocks into a traditional bentwood box. In less than minute the water began to boil chunks of local fish. Boiled fish couldn’t be simpler and the students loved it. One class got to work with Chef Colette Nelson of Ludvigs Bistro. Together students created delectable tastes of sesame salmon and toasted rockfish. Paired with cooking, we taught students why fish is good for their bodies. They all seemed to know that seafood was good for them but few could articulate why. Students learned a simple mantra–that “fish are healthy for our head, heart, and make us happy.” This really stuck; over 70% of participating students increased their health knowledge after the program.
The underlying thread that connected all of these steps was conservation. After playing a game to demonstrate a salmon food web, students learned how fish are connected to the livelihood of other plants, animals, and habitats. They learned that salmon feed the Tongass, not because the forest has teeth but because it absorbs all the nutrients of the salmon carcasses that act as a fertilizer. Students were also asked to consider what would happen if people overfished. Along with extreme answers like, “We would die,” were other answers like, “Other animals need fish to survive,” and “They won’t be able to reproduce.” It is our hope at SCS that students feel more connected to the food they eat and that they now know it is our responsibility to protect and care for the habitat and waterways that are home to these incredible animals. –Dec. 2011