NAPLES — The seafood served to Lake Region students Wednesday was far different from the fish sticks of school lunches past.

Along with the regular menu of tacos and macaroni and cheese, the high school offered samples of three hake dishes, made with fish caught earlier this week off the midcoast.

Glen Libby of Port Clyde Fresh Catch said the 40 pounds of hake were filleted Monday morning and delivered to the school Tuesday.

The recipes for baked hake, soy-ginger hake and hake fish tacos were created by Mary Ledue Paine, an owner of the Pepperclub, a Portland restaurant, and prepared by the school cafeteria staff.

The event was meant to gauge students’ interest in eating fresh fish as the school prepares to incorporate fish into its menu in the fall.

It’s a joint effort of School Administrative District 61’s new health coordinator and the Healthy Lakes Communities Putting Prevention to Work program. The cost is covered by federal stimulus money that became available last year when the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded $4.3 million to the state for anti-obesity programs. The nine-town lakes region received $1.4 million of that grant, said Courtney Kennedy, the school health coordinator.

Data collected in 2009 by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 68 percent of adults in the lakes region were overweight or obese. That was 8 percentage points higher than the rate for Cumberland County and 4 percentage points higher than the state average.

Kennedy and Adam Burk, the Healthy Lakes program coordinator, have been working together to change the eating and exercise habits of Lake Region students. They’ve already replaced the iceberg lettuce in the high school’s salad bar with dark, leafy greens, and have helped students plant gardens at several schools.

SAD 61 food service director Andy Madura said it hasn’t been hard to get the kids to eat healthier. It’s been a long time since “all they wanted was chicken nuggets and French fries,” he said.

On Wednesday, more than 100 students tried the hake samples and dropped tickets into jars to vote for their favorite recipe. The baked and soy-ginger varieties tied for most votes. Both dishes will be served at school lunch today.

Freshman Michael Brasile said he would definitely choose the baked hake over other items on the lunch menu.

“I’d eat that all day,” he said, “breakfast, lunch and dinner.” 

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

lbridgers@mainetoday.com