Boat to School Program

School Food That Wows

The school lunch menu in the Bend-LaPine School District looks more like fine dining under a program that delivers local seafood to Central Oregon cafeterias.

Building on the concept of Farm to School (connecting farmers to schools), Oregon is implementing an innovative concept called “Boat to School.” This program connects Oregon fishermen and processors with the school cafeteria and classroom so that local seafood is served on the lunch line and students learn about coastal communities. Through ideas like Boat to School, students get to celebrate good, clean, and fair food at school lunch.

Interest in Boat to School is partly fueled by the USDA’s guidelines that suggest people eat seafood twice a week. In addition to healthy choices, schools are also interested in the educational value of using Oregon agriculture, and seafood in particular, to teach lessons related to health, history, geography, food justice, and science.

Drawing national attention, the nutrition services team in the Bend-LaPine School District was the first in Oregon to launch Boat to School last year, serving MSC-certified (Marine Stewardship Council) Oregon Pacific Pink shrimp on the menu—in salad, pasta, chowder, sushi, and more. Likewise, Dover sole and rockfish are served twice a month to elementary through high school students.

You might think, “How do you get kids to enjoy fish?” It is simpler than you think. When kids get to learn about the food they’re eating, whether by growing it, cooking it, or meeting the producers, they are excited to eat it!

With financial support from Oregon’s Farm to School and School Garden Grant (run by the Oregon Department of Education), the school district is buying directly from an Oregon seafood processor in Astoria and cooking fish in creative ways—such as ginger soy glazed sole with fresh made pineapple salsa over coconut rice and amazingly, parmesan crusted rockfish.

With support from the Oregon Department of Agriculture and FoodCorps (a national AmeriCorps partner), Boat to School helps to bridge urban-rural and coastal divides by bringing these diverse regions and cultures closer together. Districts elsewhere in Oregon are catching on. Students in the Tigard, Centennial, and Salem school districts also got the chance to taste fresh, Oregon seafood and gave it a big thumbs up!

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This post was contributed by Emily Ritchie, a Slow Food Portland steering committee member and a fellow with FoodCorps Oregon at Oregon Department of Agriculture. Emily is passionate about simple, fresh food for all and believes school gardens are terrific places to spark interest in healthy eating in the next generation. She especially has a passion for cheese and studied an Alpine cheese in Switzerland a few summers back. Her flock of 6 chickens are all named after delicious cheeses too.


Thanks for sharing

  1. Rick Sherman
    Rick Sherman03-31-2014

    Innovative programs like these prove that we can get healthy, fresh LOCAL food into our cafeterias! Other districts have taken notice and ran other Boat to School promotions, such as Tigard/Tualatin and Salem.

    Now other school districts are using this format to do other unique opportuinites like “Ranch to School” and such, utilizing the Oregon Cattle Commision – like a recent promotion at Yamhill-Carlton School district!

    Rick Sherman, Farm to School/School Garden Coordinator
    Oregon Department of Education