President Truman officially established a nationwide school lunch program in 1946 “to safeguard the health and well-being of the Nation’s children and to encourage domestic consumption of nutritious agricultural commodities and other food.”
Those words are contained in Section 2 of the National School Lunch Act.
Did anyone think at that time that school lunches would evolve to include Copper River salmon, a dish that consumers pay top dollar to enjoy in fancy restaurants around the world? Thanks to the efforts of local fishermen, processors, school chef Sandie Ponte and facilitation by Cordova District Fishermen United, Cordova students enjoy local seafood on a weekly basis.
This community partnership is celebrated annually during a Fish to School Luncheon hosted by Cordova School District, CDFU, Copper River Watershed Project, Prince William Sound Science Center and Wild Salmon Center. Prior to lunch, community representatives are invited into the 5th grade classroom to meet with students interested in learning about how local jobs are connected to salmon.
While there are the obvious connections between fishermen and canneries to salmon, students are encouraged to explore the indirect economic benefits that extend throughout the community by talking with representatives from hotels, shipping companies, restaurants, the city, healthcare professionals and other professions that support fishermen or benefit from their purchases in the community.
After short interviews and introducing their special guests to the rest of the class, students escort the adults down to the cafeteria for a salmon lunch, showing off the salmon tank where they are raising coho salmon along the way.
Fish to School showcases how strategic partnerships benefit the entire community. Every student in Cordova School District has access to healthy, locally sourced seafood as part of the school lunch program. Every student gains a greater appreciation for the role of salmon in our local economy and surrounding ecosystems as part of their 5th grade curriculum.
Students gain confidence through their conversations with adults at the annual luncheon and are able to learn about a wide range of job opportunities in Cordova.
As Cordova springs to life with preparations for the 2017 salmon season, students’ explorations in the community will continue. They will head into the harbor, Ilanka Cultural Center, and to Fleming Creek, to continue to learn first hand about the importance of salmon to Cordova and other Alaska coastal communities. Ultimately, these students are the future leaders of Cordova and these experiences will prepare them for the role they can play in sustaining healthy salmon populations for the benefit of all Cordovans, for generations to come.
Additional support for these education programs contributed by American Seafood Company, Copper River Seafoods, Trident Seafoods, Wilson Construction, Cordova Telephone Cooperative and other individual contributors.
Kate Morse is the program director for the Copper River Watershed Project.