School lunch study comes to Y-K
Photo courtesy of CANHR
Jazlyn Herron, 3, reacts to the taste of a salmon patty dipped in yogurt sauce during a test of salmon recipes at UAF.
After a thoughtful chew of a piece of salmon patty dipped in yogurt sauce, the 3-year-old Jazlyn Herron gave her approval with an enthusiastic thumbs-up. She gave the salmon meatballs the same nod.
Herron was part of a salmon recipe taste test recently conducted by the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Center for Alaska Native Health Research.
The recipes were next showcased at the Tanana Valley State Fair as part of the “Can you Taste Local” event at the Kiwanis Agriculture Hall. The event is sponsored in collaboration with the Alaska Farm to School Program. In addition to salmon tasting, there was a hand-washing activity for kids and a blind taste test between local and imported vegetables.
The fish taste tests are part of CANHR’s Fisheries to Schools research project, which aims to put more fish into school lunches and study how that affects the health of Alaska schoolchildren and communities, said Andrea Bersamin, the project’s principal investigator and UAF assistant professor.
“The goal is to find a way to support local fish businesses while providing a culturally important and healthy food for Alaska’s children,” she said.
The center, which is part of the UAF Institute of Arctic Biology, received a 3-year, $1.1 million grant last year from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the project. It will build on previous CANHR findings that traditional foods, such as fish, are rich sources of omega-3 fats and vitamin D and appear to have a protective influence on the health of the Yup’ik people who regularly eat them. The majority of the study will take place in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.
The UAF Cooperative Extension Service test kitchen has developed standardized Alaska salmon recipes for the taste test. The tasting has been designed to involve children and the community in creating cafeteria selections students will enjoy. Jazlyn Herron was one of the first to sample the recipes.
The study could provide a model for Alaska school food services to add Alaska salmon to the menus.
“It could be great for Alaska’s children and for local commercial fishing businesses,” Bersamin said.