How one US supplier got local seafood into California schools
California elementary and high school students are getting more seafood in their diets, thanks to a community supported fishery (CSF) program.
Moss Landing, Calif.-based Real Good Fish began operating as a CSF in 2012. Late last year, it added Bay 2 Tray, in which it delivers local bycatch seafood to the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, and will be delivering to additional school districts soon.
“We want to get as much local seafood in the hands of local consumers and kids, because we see that as the opportunity for change and impact,” Alan Lovewell, CEO and founder of Real Good Fish, told SeafoodSource. “We live in a culture now where seafood consumption is declining. So how do we get kids and adults to enjoy seafood more? It’s an education process that involves providing recipes, hand-holding and getting people excited about local seafood.”
Bay 2 Tray is supported by the Center for Eco-Literacy as part of the state’s California Thursdays program, which aims to get the state’s schools to serve a locally-sourced menu for students. “It’s a way to connect the kids with the local food producers and provide the healthiest foods possible in the process,” Lovewell said.
“We are also bringing fishermen into the schools. It is an opportunity for kids to learn where their seafood is coming from, and then go to the cafeteria to have lunch,” Lovewell said.
Soon after Real Good Fish began working with the Monterey Unified School District – which serves more than 10,000 meals a day – in January, other school districts wanted to get involved.
As a result, the Pittsburgh Unified School District north of Oakland will start receiving local seafood in October. In January, the Oakland Unified School District will start its program.
Because of school districts’ tight budgets – typically USD 1.25 (EUR 1.12) per student, per meal – Real Good Fish can only supply schools with IQF bycatch fillets.
“We wouldn’t be able to meet their price point for wild salmon and other fish,” Lovewell said. “The only way we can offer the program is with species that are undervalued.” The CSF also found a bycatch species with a mild flavor kids want to eat – similar to tilapia. “It is not mainstream and we are hoping it doesn’t go mainstream, because the price would go up,” Lovewell said.
Schools are using the fish in dishes such as fish tacos and fish taco bowls, which contain beans, rice, fish and vegetables.