Cookbook project aims to get Alaska foods on school menus

A new cookbook intended for Alaska schools and other institutional kitchens is coming out soon.

The cookbook is called “Make it Local: Recipes for Alaska’s Children.” It is a collaborative project involving the education and natural resource departments of the State of Alaska, along with the UAF Cooperative Extension Service.

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(Chef Danielle Flaherty prepares some brussel sprouts at a recent cooking demonstration at the Galena Pool)
(Chef Danielle Flaherty prepares some brussel sprouts at a recent cooking demonstration at the Galena Pool)

The project was funded by a USDA grant, with a goal of getting more locally produced vegetables and proteins onto school menus.

Cooperative Extension Research and Development Chef Danielle Flaherty developed the recipes for the new cookbook. She acknowledges that most institutional chefs are limited in their time and resources, so the recipes try to make it as easy as possible to cook from scratch with healthy, local ingredients.

“There’s a fish stick recipe that really simplifies the process of breading fish. Instead of a very laborious process in which you have to touch every single piece of fish four or five times, this is more of a “dump” type recipe. Or there are some recipes that use kale, for example, which use a food processor. You just run it through with a slicing blade and it shreds it really fine. You don’t have to get it very well stemmed. So we have tried to think about the process of production cooking.”

Using local meat and seafood donations in Alaska schools is a popular idea, but Flaherty says there are some financial considerations that might serve as a disincentive.

“A lot of schools are being reimbursed for school lunches. Of course there are a lot of great things happening with that in feeding hungry kids in Alaska. But there are some technicalities that make it challenging to get reimbursed for meats caught with a game permit or a subsistence permit.”

Chef Flaherty also wants to see Alaska fruits and vegetables used in new ways, which might extend their usage into the winter. For example, locally-grown zucchini can be shredded and frozen, and then added to a variety of dishes throughout the year, ranging from tacos to muffins.

The “Make It Local” cookbook is being printed now, and is due to be distributed at the School Health and Wellness Institute in Anchorage at the end of the month.

All school districts that participate in the National School Lunch Program will be getting a copy, in addition to Head Start agencies and child care centers participating in the USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program.