Program pushes seafood in schools

Published on
October 19, 2009

A new program in Florida is connecting local seafood suppliers and school districts’ foodservice directors.

The Florida Bureau of Seafood and Aquaculture Marketing lau nched the “Seafood to Schools” program this summer to help school districts in the state find local seafood. The agency is now looking for more seafood vendors to participate in the program.

“The schools are looking for healthy meals, and we are trying to get them introduced to local seafood products,” said Martin May, the bureau’s management review specialist. The program came about after the agency noticed success with the national “Farm to Schools” program, which was formed to get more locally grown produce into schools, according to May.

Of 67 school districts in the state, 17 have indicated they are interested in purchasing local seafood and more are expected to come on board. They are primarily buying frozen fish fillets and fish portions.

Florida seafood vendors able to supply local schools are now listed on the bureau’s Web site, so foodservice directors can easily find them. The 11 participating companies include Bar Harbor Seafood in Orlando, Cox’s Wholesale Seafood in Tampa, Hull’s Seafood Market in Ormond Beach and Woods Fisheries in Port St. Joe.

Vendors with products to sell to schools must first contact the foodservice director of the district they want to sell to and arrange a sales call. If the product is accepted by the director, he or she will submit a new item request to the chairperson of the district’s buying group. U.S. Foodservice, a distributor to Florida schools, also approves the product and arranges to pick up and deliver it.

Florida seafood vendors that want to participate in the program can email the bureau via a form on its site.

An Institute of Medicine report released on Tuesday called for more nutritional school lunches, including more fruits, veggies and whole grains and a limit on calories. Food costs may rise 20 percent to 25 percent at lunch if all the recommendations are enacted.

But seafood vendors may benefit if the U.S. Department of Agriculture received more funding to allocate to the National School Lunch Program. School districts’ foodservice directors often say the relatively high cost of seafood prevents them from buying more of the protein.

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