In this election season, it seems that Democrats and Republicans don’t often agree, but one bipartisan effort in Congress has the possibility to improve both Washington’s economy and the quality of food offered in school lunches across the country.
Our Congressional representatives are focused on closing a little known loophole in the Buy American provision of the National School Lunch Program that allows schools to use federal subsidies to purchase foreign seafood as long as it is cheaper than fish caught and processed in the United States. Why is that so important to Washington state? Seafood producers in Washington are some of the primary suppliers of U.S.-caught seafood to the nation’s schools, and they are losing out.
As an example, the loophole currently lets schools use taxpayer dollars to purchase Russian pollock at the expense of Alaska pollock. Alaska pollock, a member of the cod family, is a mild, whitefish that is very popular with students, and in restaurants and retail products worldwide. Although Alaska pollock is the nation’s largest fishery and accounts for more than one-third of all fish landed in the country, about 60 percent of the pollock purchased by schools is caught in Russia, and is most often processed in China.