Assessing Fish to School Programs at 2 School Districts in Oregon
Objective: Farm to school (FTS) programs provide many established benefits to students and the community; however, fish to school programs are a less studied subset of FTS. The objective was to identify how fish to school programs are implemented, their impacts, and the enabling factors to support these programs. Methods: We conducted formative research and interviewed stakeholders from 2 school districts in Oregon in 2019. Results: Interviewees reported benefits of connecting students and the larger school community with local food and creating excitement from new lunch offerings. Factors that facilitated fish to school programs included strong program leaders and partnerships, FTS grant funding, and the creative use of resources. Challenges in maintaining the program included sustainable program funding, seafood distribution networks, recipe development, and higher cost per serving of seafood compared to other proteins. Conclusions: Resources exist for school professionals interested in starting or sustaining fish to school programs. These programs are difficult to launch and sustain, and thus, require many forms of support (institutional, financial, industry, culinary, etc) and benefit from innovations like fish to school aggregators and product development such as pre-prepared fish options.