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Serving up fish at New Richmond High School

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Students in Rachel Sauvola's agriscience classes, along with various school and Star Prairie Trout Farm helpers, filleted enough tilapia to feed 200 people on Tuesday, May 14.

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The tilapia, which were raised in the school's aquaculture lab, were consumed as fish tacos on Friday, May 17, after the students completed Service Learning Day, said Karen Brummer, supervisor of food services.

"We're going to toss them in flour, fry them up and serve them with a little cilantro and pico de gallo," she said.

Brummer will be using funds from the food services budget to pay for the fish. Typically tilapia runs about $2.70 per pound, she said. The price of the high school's tilapia will be set based on state food rates, which is lower than what the district might get from other sources, said Rachel Sauvola, agriscience teacher.

"The money isn't really the focus," she said. "The focus is the Farm to School program, in addition to the ability to highlight locally grown fish and all the work the students put in to make the program successful."

Students were responsible for moving the fish from the tanks into an ice bath and then to the school's kitchen where they were filleted. Experts from Star Prairie Trout Farm were on hand to help the students with the filleting, though filleting tilapia differs a bit from trout, they said.

"The ice bath is the most humane way we could come up with to kill them," Sauvola said.

Once filleted, the fish were moved onto large cooking trays, wrapped in plastic and frozen.

"Now that we've taken the maiden voyage we're ready to grow the program," Sauvola said. "We have lots of notes from this year and will move forward. I'd love to continue supplying school lunch, host a community fish fry and sell them to local establishments -- like Westfields -- who are also concerned with growing and eating local. Knowing where your food comes from and what was used to grow it is a powerful thing."

Josh Nelson, a NRHS senior who has managed the school's aquaculture lab for independent study credit, said he wasn't sad to see the tilapia go.

"They're just fish," he said. "They're all going to die some time."

Students completely emptied one of the school's three 800-gallon tanks and had to dip into a second tank to complete the job. In all, more than 200 of the district's original 500 tilapia were filleted.

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