Nutritionists seeking the public’s opinion on how to include wild Alaska salmon in school lunches are weighing the results of a state fair taste test of three fish entrees that could eventually be served up to students in rural Alaska.
More than 300 men, women and children attending the Tanana Valley Fair in Fairbanks in early August sampled salmon patties, salmon patties with sauce and sweet and sour salmon balls with brown rice, then offered their opinions to researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
The taste test is part of a much larger effort under way to determine future rural school lunch plans. It could also potentially improve local markets for commercial harvesters and processors.
The goal of researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks is to provide healthier lunches with wild Alaska salmon and then measure the health impacts on the kids themselves. Recipes for the taste testing were created by the Cooperative Extension Service in Fairbanks, in collaboration with the Alaska Farm to School Program, and will include a taste test between local and imported vegetables as well.
Andrea Bersamin, the research project’s principal investigator, is a nutrition professor at UAF.
The goal, she said, “is to find a way for more Alaska commercial fish to stay in the state while providing an excellent source of local food for Alaska’s children. Beyond the nutritional values, the project includes an economic feasibility study, curriculum and program development. Some of the grant money will be used to purchase fish for the program from area fishermen and fish processors, once local preferences for how the fish should be prepared are established, so the program could have the added bonus of boosting local economies.
The taste tests began earlier this summer at the Center for Alaska Native Health Research at UAF. The center is part of the UAF Institute of Arctic Biology, which funded the research through a $1.1 million federal Department of Agriculture grant.