"Fish to School" project brings fresh catch to Seacoast schools

Locally caught, freshly prepared fish is replacing traditional fish sticks.

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Fish sticks made way for a different sea bounty at schools throughout the Seacoast on Wednesday, Dec. 11, when locally caught Acadian redfish was prepared and served in the cafeteria.

Oyster River High School was one nine schools involved in the "Fish to School" project. Doris Demers is cafeteria director for the Oyster River School District, which includes Mastaway Elementary, Moharimet Elementary, and both Oyster River middle and high schools.

She has been working with local farms over the last two years to establish a Farm to School program, where local produce is served as a part of the school lunch program. Demers was excited by the opportunity to include locally sourced fish.

"We serve a ton of local food, but this is our first Fish to School," she said. "I am a fish lover and to be in New England, on the Seacoast, and not serve real fish just seems wrong."

She said local sourcing could not be done without the strong community support the Oyster River School District receives from families, area farmers, and the University of New Hampshire.

Tom Kenaley, a cafeteria worker, planned and executed the preparation of the fish at the high school Dec. 11.

"Acadian redfish is a very milky fish that lends itself well to a variety of preparations," Kenaley said. "We are serving two fillets, lightly breaded, stuffed with a mixture of broccoli and mozzarella, wrapped and baked. I feel like this is a good replacement for the whitefish species people are more familiar with."

While not all students choose the hot lunch option, those who did seemed to agree with Kenaley. Many were already fish fans, and welcomed the fresh approach.

"I haven't ever gotten a hot lunch," said Oliver Philbrick. "It looked really good, so I grabbed it. It is excellent."

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