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Boat to School

Boat to school? What's that? Well, think of it like farm to school - but for seafood.

March is National Nutrition Month. This week we have a new video of our friends at the Portland Public Schools Nutrition Services serving locally caught halibut on lunch trays to underscore the benefits of eating seafood.

Seafood in school meals is experiencing a renaissance nationally as fishermen, students and nutrition services are celebrating ocean resources with "Boat to School." Each school does it a little differently. Generally speaking, Boat to School programs consist of lessons about different types of seafood. It talks about how they make it to your plate: from when and where seafood is caught to how to safely prepare it. It's a great way to bridge the gap between coastal and inland communities. Just like farm to school, it connect students to where food comes from and the people who catch it.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines suggest eating seafood every week because of the health benefits and associations with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 - 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at

Do you or your kids eat different types of seafood 1-2 times every week? I know lots of people already do, but I had a hard time with it. I grew up in western New York where seafood was only served on Fridays for fish fries. It took a lot of trying different fish prepared different ways, but I have learned to crave sushi, salmon, tuna and halibut. If eating seafood is not something your family normally serves, your kids may need to multiple exposures to seafood too.

And which seafood to eat? Two things you can do to ensure healthy oceans:

1. Make ocean-friendly choices (or lake/river-friendly choices for freshwater fish)

2. Dine at restaurants that serve sustainable seafood.

Check out the Seafood Watch list to find both. For your dining choices, look for seafood that is high in the fish oils EPA and DHA but low mercury including:

  • salmon,
  • anchovies,
  • herring,
  • shad,
  • sardines,
  • Pacific oysters,
  • Trout
  • Atlantic and Pacific mackerel

Atlantic and Pacific mackerel is not king mackerel, which is high in methylmercury. (Source:

Where can you get local seafood? We have talked about how you can benefit from Community Supported Agriculture programs, and now there are also community supported fisheries! Depending on where you live, you could sign up for a fish share, meet a fisherman at a farmers markets or enjoy local seafood at schools through a boat to school programs. These activities are just starting to be tracked, and you can find out if there is one of these programs near you, or sign up your program at Local Catch's Seafood Locator.

Here is a short video from Portland Public Schools Nutrition Services, enjoy!

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