The cafeteria operation at Olympia High School in the Olympia (IL) School District has been sourcing fresh vegetables from an onsite greenhouse run by staff and students for the past couple years, and it is looking to extend the program by adding fish to the in-house shopping list. The school, which has a strong science and agriculture program, this spring began raising tilapia in aquaculture tanks in the greenhouse, and plans call for using the fish in the cafeteria when they are full grown, according to Foodservice Director Mary Idleman, RD, SNS.
"We have had a graduate student here as an intern and she and I have been working on recipes," Idleman says. "I think we've come up with some vi- able and tasty choices."
The recipes will all fit into federal reimbursable meals, she emphasizes. e 1,900-student school has a free/reduced population of around 30 percent.
The greenhouse originally grew only flowers but about five years ago, Idle- man approached the department head in charge of the operation and suggested adding some food crops. "We are after all a farming community," she notes.
A grant from Monsanto Corp. last year expanded the program to the point where the greenhouse went from hydroponics to soil planting and began supplying an appreciable volume of product to the school kitchen. For in- stance, about a quarter of the school's total budget for whole and cherry to- matoes came from the greenhouse.
Other greenhouse crops include cu- cumbers and various peppers, which are used both in cooking and on the salad bar. (When school is not in session, the product is donated to local hunger programs.)
Idleman says she plans to begin the process of getting the proper regulatory certification for the tilapia this fall and if all goes well, the fish should begin ap- pearing on the lunch menu sometime next school year. As for how the live fish will be processed into the filets to be used in the kitchen, which would have to include gutting and cleaning, Idleman says it has yet to be resolved. "ey'll figure it out," she says confidently.