GAPP Develops Alaska Pollock Items for School Menus
This month, students in Alaska schools on the Kenai Peninsula and in Fairbanks will be among the first in the nation to try new Alaska pollock lunch entrées developed especially to appeal to school-age children.
Because they haven't been able to find seafood selections kids like, many schools in Alaska do not serve Alaska seafood. The Genuine Alaska Pollok Producers (GAPP), an association of Alaska pollock fishing and processing companies, worked with the two school districts on an initiative to add healthy, student-approved seafood meals to school lunch menus and to ensure the seafood comes from Alaska.
"It might seem obvious that Alaska fish should be served in Alaska schools, but as it turns out, schools in Alaska face the same challenges as schools across the country when it comes to finding fish dishes that kids enjoy," says Pat Shanahan, program director for GAPP. "Our goal is to change that by teaching schools how to buy top-quality Alaska fish and how to menu and merchandise it creatively."
GAPP developed six new lunch items, including Alaska Pollock Strips with Dips, Alaska FBLT (fish, bacon, lettuce and tomato) Sandwich, Alaska Baja Salad, Alaska Baja Wrap, Alaska Baja Taco and the Alaska Po' Boy Sandwich. The entrées were tested by small groups of elementary and secondary students in both districts last month and received rave reviews. Students liked the mild flavor of the Alaska pollock, and many commented that the entrées were some of the best school lunch offerings they had ever tasted.
Based on the success of these initial tests, two of the new items, Alaska Pollock Strips with Dips and the Alaska FBLT Sandwich, are being offered in all schools in the Kenai Peninsula Borough district. In Fairbanks, students at North Pole High School are being offered four new lunch entrées, the Alaska Baja Salad, Alaska Baja Wrap, Alaska Baja Taco and the Alaska Po' Boy Sandwich.
"We have received excellent feedback from the students," says Amy Rouse, director of nutrition services for the Fairbanks North Star Borough school district. "The Alaska Baja Salad has been the favorite so far, but all entrées are doing well," she adds. If the introduction goes well at North Pole High, the entrées will be offered at all secondary schools in the next year, according to Rouse.
Elementary schools in the district are already serving Alaska pollock lunches.
The GAPP program is part of the association's ongoing effort to improve schools' ability to have success with seafood. In addition to the new recipes, GAPP also provided staff training and merchandising support for the introductions.