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School board urges state to extend investment in local foods

Alaska First Lady Sandy Parnell chats over a Fish -to-Schools lunch at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School in Sitka in April, 2012. (KCAW photo/Ed Ronco)

Alaska First Lady Sandy Parnell chats over a Fish-to-Schools lunch at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School in Sitka in April, 2012. (KCAW photo/Ed Ronco)

In other business Tuesday night (2-4-14), the Sitka School Board put its weight behind an effort to increase funding for locally-sourced food in schools across the state.

In a resolution to the legislature, the board cited the success of Sitka’s Fish to Schools program as justification for extending a similar statewide program beyond one year.

Nutritional Alaskan Food for Schools was introduced by Anchorage Republican Bill Stoltze in 2012, and piloted last year.

This year the governor has included funding of $3-million dollars for the program — but only for one year. All schools in Alaska will receive funding from the program, based on student population.

Sitka’s Fish to Schools program was conceived during the Sitka Health Summit in the fall of 2010, and launched the following spring.

School board president Lon Garrison considers it to be one of the pioneering efforts in the state.

“I have to say that Sitka is one of the communities that’s really leading the way with our Fish to Schools program, and a lot of communities are looking at that.”

The Sitka district and Mt. Edgecumbe High School each received about $39,000 in the pilot program. The emphasis in Sitka has been on seafood, though Mt. Edgecumbe used some of its funding to purchase potatoes from Gustavus.

Tracy Gagnon manages Fish to School for the Sitka Conservation Society. She was pleased to hear of the board’s support. She says the bill is an economic driver for both agriculture and seafood in the state, ecologically sensible, and healthy. “It’s a win-win-win,” she says.

The school board’s vote was unanimous (Tonia Rioux and Cass Pook were absent). The resolution encourages the legislature to develop multi-year funding for Nutritional Alaska Food for Schools.

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