South Carolina school district getting creative in mixing seafood into meal program

A school lunch featuring fish at a Greenville County School in South Carolina

The U.S. government has recently ramped up its seafood purchases for federal school lunch programs across the country, a marked change in its previous practice.

In 2023 alone, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has purchased significant amounts of Alaska pollock, haddock, sockeye salmon, pink salmon, catfish, Pacific shrimp, and Pacific rockfish. And it announced an additional solicitation for up to to 16,720 cases of canned pink salmon for its school lunch program on 16 September.

The change came in parallel with the issuance of dietary guidelines in a November 2022 U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) report, “National School Lunch Program: USDA Could Enhance Assistance to States and Schools in Providing Seafood to Students," state that school-aged kids should eat between 4 and 10 ounces of seafood weekly. However, until recently, seafood comprised just 1 percent to 2 percent of the animal protein purchased for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National School Lunch Program (NSLP). That amounts to only 3 ounces of seafood consumption allotted per student annually.

“From states’ and school food authorities’ (SFAs) orders, the USDA purchased a limited quantity of seafood compared to other animal proteins, such as beef, eggs, pork, and poultry, for the NSLP for fiscal years 2014 through 2019,” the report said.

Recognizing the lack of nutritious offerings available to his students, Joe Urban, the director of food and nutrition services for Greenville County Schools in the U.S. state of South Carolina, and Lauren Couchois, the registered culinary dietitian for the school district, introduced a plan to close the gap.

Urban and Couchois will discuss the importance of seafood in schools nationwide at Seafood Nutrition Partnership’s 7th Annual State of the Science Symposium – a live-streamed event available for public viewing – in Washington, D.C., on 21 September.  

Pacific Seafoods – one of several U.S. suppliers that provide seafood to the NSLP and other federal nutrition programs – is accomplishing what Urban and Couchois have advised by working to introduce more seafood in schools, Pacific Vice President of Marketing and Development Bill Hueffner told SeafoodSource.

Pacific decided to get involved after ... 

Photo courtesy of Greenville County Schools

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