The golden chunks of fried, frozen fish speeding off conveyor belts at Good Harbor Fillet's Gloucester plant are the company's bet on bringing seafood back to school cafeterias.
The frozen fish processor, whose business plan has included revolutionizing the fish stick, is getting a new boost from the federal government to reach a generation often suspicious of eating things that come from the ocean.
After a year of lobbying by Good Harbor, the U.S. Department of Agriculture this week announced that it will start buying frozen Alaska pollock in a commodity program that puts discounted food in school kitchens across the country.
Giant frozen blocks of pollock are Good Harbor's raw material of choice to make a range of kid-friendly fried fish foods with its fat-blocking protein coating system developed by partner Proteus Industries.
In recent years, fish consumption in public schools has been on the decline, a trend Good Harbor President Bill Stride attributes to subsidies for terrestrial proteins and the low quality of cheaper, traditional fish sticks made out of minced seafood.
"My strong sense is that seafood consumption has been dropping for years," Stride said yesterday. "Now the kids will be able to eat the best pollock at prices on par with other proteins."
If Gloucester public schools are any indication, the subsidies from the federal commodities program could result in pollock hitting cafeterias as early as next year.
Gloucester schools have used Good Harbor products in the past, as recently as last year, but this year had to cut back because of a logistical problem connected with district layoffs.
Gloucester food service director Richard Kelleher said yesterday that if the price of Good Harbor fish comes down like the price of other commodity program foods, he would love to put them back on the menu.