Why seafood?

Currently, there is tremendous interest in farm to school programs nationally including in Oregon. The momentum nationally is in large part fueled by the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign and coordinated efforts to reduce childhood obesity in this generation. Ten years ago when farm to school started, the focus was primarily on procuring and promoting fresh fruits and vegetables. Within the past 5 years we have seen increased attention on developing multi-ingredient and “center of the plate” local meal entrees. Currently, school food services are very interested in procuring and promoting more Oregon seafood. This interest is fueled by the USDA’s new guidelines that suggest schools serve fish twice a week. In Oregon, there are approximately 90 school districts out of 189 that indicate that they are purchasing Oregon agricultural products in addition to milk. These 90 districts serve almost 70% of the school-aged children. $0.40 is spent on protein for each student eating school lunch. This number presents an opportunity to encourage other local bounty to be procured, in this case, seafood. An increased focus on the school food environment provides an opportunity for Oregon. School lunch dollars can go towards a healthy option for students while money is cycling back into the Oregon economy.

Imagine in these photos, Oregon’s wonderful FoodCorps service members teaching about Oregon’s seafood as well as Oregon’s fruits and vegetables!

The long-term outcome for this project is to help make kids healthier while strengthening the Oregon economy. An important outcome will be Oregon children eating healthy, local fish and feeling encouraged to eat more fish in the future. By demonstrating how the program can be successful in a small group in Oregon, other schools and communities can benefit within Oregon and potentially in other states interested in buying local products.

Why this is the perfect fellowship project for me: I developed a strong appreciation for food when I was in a French-American school growing up. I learned to love great cheese, seasonal produce, and the sense of community that develops over a meal. My situation was relatively special in American culture, but I don’t think it has to be unique. I have a vision that a good food culture can permeate this country, starting in schools. This past year, working at Food Roots in Tillamook, Oregon I developed important relationships at the Oregon coast, sometimes over meals of fresh fish. I greatly appreciate the health benefits of fish and the exquisite taste of fresh fish and hope children can also be exposed to Oregon’s seafood through school lunches.

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