Putting Fish Back Into Schools, and More

Research efforts under way in Alaska with an aim at improving the health and well being of the population could bode well for the fishing industry.

A research project at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, funded by over $1 million from the US Department of Agriculture, is looking at ways to increase the connection of Alaska school children with traditional foods, while improving local markets for fish harvested sustainably.

At the same time, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium is working with a prominent Alaska chef on using traditional foods, including fish, in contemporary dishes.

Andrea Bersamin is the principal investigator on the USDA funded research project. She explained that researchers ill determine what product forms of fish schools feel students will eat, plus whether the schools can afford this product and whether they have the ability to prepare it in the schools. Once the product form of fish is identified, if it can’t be produced locally, researchers plan to look elsewhere in Alaska for other forms of the same product. Hopefully, said Quentin Fong, of the University of Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program at Kodiak, the project will result in students having health food provided by private entrepreneurs who provide jobs in the community and have a profit margin.

Bersamin said the community-based participatory project will include an advisory committee of stakeholders and produce a tool kit, which would include information on how to connect with fish processors.

The ANTHC project, meanwhile, is also promoting the use of traditional foods, including fish, in an effort to reduce the number of medical issues stemming from poor diets. Project leaders Gary Ferguson of ANTHC and chef Rob Kinneen plan to spread the word using “webisodes” from different regions of the state to show people how to gather, prepare and preserve different foods native to the area, including fish.