Last night, Wednesday April 16th, we had the pleasure of participating in UNH Dining's Sustainable Seafood dinner event. We had our outreach and educational materials on display and were right in the midst of the action (Check out our new Instagram to see some of the pictures of the event!) The event was part of UNH's 6-week pilot project to bring locally harvested seafood into their dining halls and exposing the students to several seasonally available species that they may not be familiar with. David Hill, UNH Dining Assistant Director, Culinary Operations has stated that making more local seafood available to the students is a natural next step as part of UNH Dining's commitment to locally sourced foods*. Additionally, Hill says that bringing education to the students about our local fisheries is in keeping with the overarching education mission of UNH*.
UNH Dining in collaboration with NH Sea Grant, The Sustainability Institute and Slow Fish UNH, held the dinner at Holloway Commons and featured new and different menu items such as skate wing tacos, fried redfish, seafood ceviche, locally grown kelp, local scallops, oysters and lobster dishes. Deb Scanlon, an Area Manager at Holloway Commons said that around 3100 students were served last night and that the feedback has been very positive.
As part of the event, the Holloway Commons staff, NH Sea Grant and Slow Fish UNH helped to create, gather, and set up the "decor". One of the most popular decorations was the " Catch a Redfish" photo "set" which consisted of a giant cardboard cut-out of a redfish and fishing pole on a dock and students lined up to have their picture taken. NH Fresh and Local Seafood T-shirts were also featured throughout the dining hall; many of the servers and other staff members wore them and they looked great! It was a great way to spread the word about the NH Fresh and Local Seafood Brand. One of our local lobstermen, Damon Frampton out of Portsmouth, lent UNH Dining some lobster traps and buoys and even though we tried to get a real dinghy, the Holloway staff was creative and decided to just build their own!
Several representatives from the fishing industry were also available for the event including fisherman David Goethel from the F/V Ellen Diane, Jared Auerbach from Red's Best- a Boston-based seafood processor , Padi Anderson from F/V Rimrack, NH Community Seafood and Ocean Approved Kelp.
Finally, one of the most rewarding and significant moments of the event came when UNH President Mark Huddleston, Jon Plodziak, Director of Dining-UNH Dining Services, and Executive Chef Chris Kaschak signed onto committing to the Slow Fish International Principles.
This is significant because UNH Dining has agreed to actively support the local fishing community by sourcing and serving local seafood to its students and guest as well as purchasing seasonally available local seafood. Even more significant, however, is the commitment that UNH Dining has made to negotiate prices that are mutually beneficial to our local fishing community and to UNH dining. This commitment could have significant consequences to our local fishing community as UNH is one of the largest food purchasers in the state. In fact, on a weekly basis in Holloway Commons alone- an average of 500 lbs of fish are purchased and served to students. If you combine that with the other two dining halls, you are looking at a potentially consistent, higher-value market for NH Fresh and Local Seafood for our local fishermen. Additionally, UNH Dining has also committed to providing education and awareness of local seafood to its guests which supports NH Sea Grant and UNH Cooperative Extension's efforts in this area. Reaching this demographic can have far reaching effects on the the future of NH fisheries especially if they begin to demand more and more local seafood.
** All photos courtesy of G. Bradt, NH Sea Grant