Sustainable Schools

Boat-to-School

teacher holding large fishA new pilot school program is helping children learn more about local U.S. sustainable seafood and the benefits of eating seafood as part of a healthy diet. The initiative is led by the Oregon Albacore Commission (OAC), is funded by a $15,400 Farm to School grant from the Oregon Department of Education, and is supported by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Starting this school year, students from Seaside, Ore. will be involved in a first-of-its-kind boat-to-school program.

During the academic year, students will learn about five wild and locally sourced seafoods, most of which are certified by the MSC for sustainability. The program started with salmon in October. The next fishery will be groundfish in December, followed by Dungeness crab in January, albacore tuna in March, and then coming to a close with jordani pink shrimp in May. Students learn about these species’ roles in a healthy ecosystem, the impact of the local seafood supply chain within their communities, and experience the health benefits of Oregon-caught seafood through field trips and hands-on activities.

The five-pronged program goes beyond just serving seafood to students. During assemblies and classroom time, guest speakers from the Oregon Albacore Commission, Oregon Trawl Commission, Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission, Oregon Salmon Commission, as well as fishermen from each fishery, guide the kids in hands-on activities teaching the impact of locally-caught seafood in their community. This includes culinary events with the commissions working alongside students to prepare seafood tastings to be enjoyed by classrooms. In October, students even took a field trip to a local salmon hatchery.

Another main component of the program is the take-home dinner kits. Students can take home a reusable grocery bag holding recipes in English and Spanish along with many of the necessary ingredients including the seafood to prepare meals at home with their families. Students already enjoyed a salmon kit, and will be given an albacore kit in March.

The commissions are also creating workbooks, posters, and nutritional guides for the students with educational information and lesson plans to be completed during class. These activities meet STEM and Common Core guidelines.

children touching fishThe OAC aims to educate and bring excitement about seafood to Seaside’s youth and their families. The OAC is proud of their fleet of artisan fishermen sustainably harvesting truly wild albacore and their processors who are committed to providing them to customers. The OAC is looking forward to engaging schools in the dynamics of how that happens in their communities.

OAC Commissioner Christa Svensson from Bornstein Seafoods said, “We are excited to be a part of this unique program with partners including the Marine Stewardship Council to further promote local, wild, sustainable seafood in our schools.” MSC is recognized as the world’s leading certification program for sustainable, wild-caught seafood.

“Since the MSC is focused on enabling everyone to play a part in securing a healthy future for our oceans, being involved in educating kids, and supplying classroom materials, is right in line with our mission,” said Leslie Brazeau of MSC, which is contributing funds toward program supplies.

Through funding from organizations such as MSC and programs like the Farm to School Grant, the OAC is looking forward to expanding the program to more Oregon school districts and beyond. The Boat-to-School program helps children and their families understand the importance of sustainability, healthy eating, and their local communities and economies.

This article originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of School Planning & Management.

About the Author

Nancy Fitzpatrick is the executive director of the Oregon Albacore Commission (OAC), which serves the commercial albacore troll fishing industry by supporting and engaging in activities and research programs that benefit the production, harvesting, handling, processing, marketing and use of Oregon albacore.

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