Students Raise Fish for Cafeteria

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A few days into my food service rotation, I’m seeing that large-scale food institutions looove tilapia. I’m getting sick of it just looking at it on the tray line for what seems like every meal service. That said, I kind of love this story.

Students at Olympia High School have been raising tilapia as part of the school’s Grow Our Own project. The fish were added in April after the Illinois Department of Natural Resources granted a permit for an aquaculture program.

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Students and participating staff are raising about 50-60 fish, each of which will grow to about 1.5 pounds, in 400-500 gallon tanks in the school’s greenhouse. The school also has a hydroponics system students use to grow tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, strawberries and cucumbers in the greenhouses. Their annual plant sales raise money for future projects. Geez, my high school didn’t have a greenhouse (though we did have a planetarium where my anatomy teacher showed us videos of surgeries…). This is awesome!

According to biology teacher Pete Cleary, the goal is to eventually produce 100 percent organic fillets to supply the school cafeteria or be sold or donated to charity. The fish are also being used as part of the education curriculum. How’s that for multi-tasking? I wish we’d gotten to do this kind of thing when I was in high school.

Would you want to raise fish in school? How about eating the fish you and your classmates raised? 

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