Boat to Cafeteria programs aim to support the principles of food sovereignty within communities by bringing local fish into schools, hospitals and other institutions.
Boat to Cafeteria (B2C) programs apply the principles of food sovereignty – a community’s right to democratic control of its food – to school lunch programs, hospitals and other cafeterias in an institutional setting. B2C programs link schools with local fish and shellfish, a model that supports both local fishers (by providing a market to sell their catch) and school nutrition programs (by providing a healthy protein for school lunches). Like other farm-to-institution programs, B2C programs offer a reliable buyer of local food at fair prices and in much larger quantities than farmers’ markets. This model strengthens local economies and supports food sovereignty by ensuring local communities have democratic control over the local food system.
Redfish Tacos served at the Exeter High School Cafeteria in Exeter, New Hampshire from the Fishing Vessel Rimrack. Photo credit: NAMA.
B2C programs also provide fish and shellfish to other institutions, such as hospitals. Hospitals in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont are leading the way in buying locally produced and processed foods on a large scale. For example, the University of Vermont Medical Center actively sources from local producers, but because Vermont is inland, the facility sources regional fish and shellfish from neighboring states Maine and New Hampshire. This model is challenging to replicate at institutions in states further inland, because small-scale fishers often do not have the infrastructure to transport large volumes of product inland, not to mention that transportation eats up fossil fuels and increases the purchasing costs.
Still, many coastal areas could benefit from such fish-to-institution or fish-to-school programs. One program, theSitka Conversation Society’s Fish to School program in Sitka, Alaska, has shown increased participation rates in school lunches on days that serve local fish. Paired with their Stream to Plate curriculum, which teaches third graders the importance of fish and challenges them to think about their food choices, the program connects children to their local food system and offers healthy lunch choices.
Regionally-sourced shrimp in the University of Vermont Medical Center kitchen. Photo credit: NAMA.