The Emmonak preschool will be eating local salmon in the fall thanks to a grant from the Alaska Farm to School Program.
“The Farm to School Program’s aim,” Taylor Berberich Alaska’s Farm to School Project Coordinator explains, “is just to expand the knowledge of local food for the state. Specifically, we really wanted to teach kids about local foods and the importance of local foods.”
The program began four years ago and recently issued 23 grants throughout the state to bring local foods into schools. Emmonak Head Start received $800 to purchase local salmon.
Andrea Bersamin is an assistant professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and applied for the funding.
“The concern was that schools and preschools provide a lot of the calories that kids are getting each day, ” she said, “and the foods that are served don’t reflect traditional dietary patterns.”
Incorporating salmon, Bersamin said, promotes traditional diet while packing a higher nutritional value for essential nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, than what is found in imported foods. Bersamin said serving traditional foods also promotes cultural practices like fishing.
The salmon will come from Emmonak’s fishery, Kwik’Pak, which buys fish from local fishermen. With Alaska importing 95 percent of its food, Bersamin says, eating locally increases food security and sustainability.
“It’s trying to get children to think about where their food comes from,” Bersamin said. “To promote locally produced foods so that they can be in control of their own food system, so they’re not dependent on outside food as much.” Bersamin said teaching this knowledge to preschoolers instills healthy habits while patterns are being formed.
The Emmonak Head Start will begin serving local salmon once a week starting in the fall.