Alaska Senators Work to Put American Seafood in School Lunches

U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski introduced S. 2529, legislation that would strengthen the Buy American provisions within the National School Lunch program to require that fish and fish products served through the program have to be caught in U.S. waters, or in the case of tuna, caught by a U.S. flagged vessel.

“This is a commonsense bill that not only helps our fishermen, but also ensures that our children nationwide are getting the freshest and most nutritious fish products available,” said Senator Sullivan. “I thank my colleagues Senators Murkowski and Cantwell for joining me in this effort to ensure that the National School Lunch program is sourced with products from the most responsibly managed fisheries in the world.”

“This legislation is simply a win-win—for Alaska’s fisheries and for our nation’s school children. As we know in Alaska, which is already blessed with great partnerships between our fishermen and our schools, bringing more fish harvested within U.S. waters into our schools’ cafeterias not only increases kids’ consumption of nature’s perfect brain food, but supports America’s seafood industry as well,” said Senator Murkowski. “I’m proud to join my colleagues to support this legislation, giving us the opportunity to put more of Alaska’s world-class, sustainably-harvested seafood onto the plates of America’s youth nationwide.”

Current law can result in foreign sourced fish products being served that have only undergone minimal secondary processing in the U.S. In some cases, fish served in school lunches are caught in foreign waters, by foreign fishermen, frozen and processed in foreign countries, then shipped to the U.S. for secondary processing. In these instances, our children are being served, and our tax dollars subsidizing, an inferior and less healthy product that may be sourced from countries that have shown hostility to U.S. exports.

S. 2529, would amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act by adding an additional condition to the “Buy American” provision of the law to require that any fish or fish product acquired under the Act be harvested from U.S. waters, and end the practice of the U.S. spending tax dollars to subsidize displacement of high quality, nutritious U.S. fish products with inferior products from abroad.

The legislation is also co-sponsored by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and has been referred to the Senate Agriculture Committee.