• Alaska Food Policy Council releases its 2012-15 strategic plan

The Alaska Food Policy Council recently released its 2012-15 Alaska Food Policy Strategic Plan, which was about a year in development.

This spring, the council will work on action-planning on its top five priority strategies:

  1. Develop, strengthen and expand the school-based programs and policies that educate about and provide healthy, local foods to schools (e.g., Farm to School Program, Agriculture in the Classroom, traditional foods in schools, school gardens).
  2. Strengthen enforcement language in the Local Agricultural and Fisheries Products Preference Statute (AS 36.15.050), also known as the “Seven Percent” statute and Procurement Preference for State Agricultural and Fisheries Products (Sec. 29.71.040).
  3. Advocate and participate in the development of community level and comprehensive statewide emergency food preparedness plan(s).
  4. Develop AFPC’s role as research aggregator and resource.
  5. Identify and support existing local food system leaders, projects, events, and activities that support Alaska’s food system.

“The Alaska Food Policy Council has been working toward this strategic plan since May 2010,” said Diane Peck, MPH, RD, a community and evaluation specialist with the Alaska Obesity Prevention and Control Program who leads the council. “Initial committees worked to identify Alaska’s food system issues and concerns and then the strategic planning group worked to turn those into our goals and strategies. It’s exciting to see such a broad spectrum of food system stakeholders come together to develop a clear and concise plan that will help guide local, regional and statewide food systems planning in Alaska.”

“The Alaska Food Policy Council works to strengthen Alaska’s food systems to spur local economic development, increase food security, and improve nutrition and health,” according to the council’s website. “The council serves as a resource for information on local and state food systems, and works to identify and propose policy and environmental changes that can improve the production, processing, distribution, health, security and safety of our food.”

According to the council’s website, “the long-term goals of the Alaska Food Policy Council are to identify barriers to building a viable Alaska food system, create a strategic plan to address these barriers, and make the necessary recommendations to decision makers to implement this plan. Diverse stakeholders from around the state have been invited to participate, including representatives for commercial farmers, farmers’ markets and CSAs; fisheries and fish processors; distributors; institutional purchasers; private-sector businesses; legislators; consumers; Alaska Native tribal organizations; food security organizations; environmental organizations; and local, state, and federal government agencies.

”

The Sitka Local Foods Network is represented on the Alaska Food Policy Council by Lisa Sadleir-Hart, MPH, RD, CHES, ACE, community nutrition department manager for SEARHC Health Promotion and the treasurer of the Sitka Local Foods Network.

“Being involved in the Alaska Food Policy Council has deepened my commitment to making local food a reality in Sitka,” Lisa said. “It’s also made me realize that we are already a community ‘on the map’ when it comes to food issues and creative responses. Sitka is considered to be one of the leading communities in the state, on par with Fairbanks/Ester/Delta Junction and Homer.”

The Alaska Food Policy Council will meet April 4-5 in Anchorage for a face-to-face meeting to action-plan the five priority strategies. People interested in providing feedback on the plan should contact Diane Peck at diane.peck@alaska.gov.

• 2012-15 Alaska Food Policy Council Strategic Plan

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• Sitka Maritime Heritage Society to host a presentation on the importance of herring in Southeast Alaska

Herring is an important food source in Sitka and the rest of Southeast Alaska. Not only are there huge commercial and subsistence harvests of the fish, and it is an important food source for salmon, halibut, whales, sea lions and other animals in the region.

The Sitka Maritime Heritage Society will host the presentation “Herring: Rakes, Reduction Plants and the Fisheries: A Night of History” during its annual meeting at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 12, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

The program features a panel discussion about the importance of herring in Southeast Alaska, from the booming commercial sac roe herring fishery to traditional gathering of herring eggs on hemlock branches. Another panel topic includes the herring reduction plants that once were scattered throughout Southeast Alaska. There also have been recent community discussions about possibly starting a whole-fish herring fishery that won’t target roe. Members of the public will be invited to share their memories of herring fishing and roe harvests. Photos and artifacts will be on hand.

For more information, contact sitkamaritime@gmail.com.

• Sitka Local Foods Network seeks market manager for 2012 Sitka Farmers Markets

The Sitka Local Foods Network Board of Directors is recruiting for a volunteer/contract worker to serve as market manager for the 2012 Sitka Farmers Markets.

This is the fifth year of operation for the Sitka Farmers Market, which features six markets from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every other Saturday from July 7 through Sept. 15 (July 7, 21, Aug. 4, 18, Sept. 1 and 15) at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall. The farmers markets feature booths from local farmers/gardeners, local fishermen, and artisans and craftspeople. These events are great Sitka gathering places, and we promote local foods and other goods at them.

A detailed description of the market manager duties (compiled by Sitka Local Foods Network vice president Linda Wilson, who has been the market manager the past four years) can be found at the link below. For more information or to submit applications, contact Maybelle Filler at 747-2761 or mocampo25@hotmail.com, or contact Doug Osborne at 747-3752 or doug_las@live.com. Please submit a resume and interest letter to Maybelle and/or Doug by 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 24. The market manager of the Sitka Farmers Market reports to the Sitka Local Foods Network Board of Directors.

• Description of duties for market manager of the Sitka Farmers Market

• Booths and vendors needed for the Let’s Grow Sitka! garden education event in March

Sitka residents wander the booths during the 2009 Let's Grow Sitka garden show

Sitka residents wander the booths during the 2009 Let's Grow Sitka garden show

It is time to start planning for the 2012 Let’s Grow Sitka Garden Expo. This year’s event will be from noon to 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 11, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall.

Linda Wilson is coordinating the event, and she is looking for anyone interested in participating. Table spaces are FREE. The only restriction is that your products, services, information, displays, demonstrations, etc., must be related to gardening or food production in Sitka.

Linda is looking for:

  • Vendors selling garden-related products, including seeds, supplies, tools, books, accessories, …
  • Vendors promoting/selling their garden-related services, such as greenhouse and cold frame construction, yard maintenance, …
  • Vendors promoting/selling products and services related to small animal husbandry, such as chickens, ducks, rabbits, pigs, etc., …
  • Someone to host a table, do a display or presentation/demonstration on the following topics:
    • Growing root crops in Sitka (potatoes, carrots, etc…)
    • Root cellars and other methods for storage of vegetables
    • Fruit trees and berry bushes
    • Raising chickens and ducks
    • Composting and using compost
    • Soils and soil amendments
    • Edible flowers and ornamentals
    • Cold frames and other small garden structures that extend the growing season
    • Greenhouses
    • Seed swap and share table
    • Hosting a children’s activity such as decorating a pot and planting pansy, violet, viola seeds to take home.  Or ???
    • Garden pests — slugs, root maggots, etc., …
    • Proper garden drainage – how to construct garden beds to drain properly
    • Anything else you can think of that relates to growing food in Sitka, …

Please consider volunteering to host a table or to be a vendor. We want to make this a bigger and better event for this year,  and to get more people inspired to start or expand a garden. Last year we were unfortunate to be scheduled during the same week as Spring break, but NOT this year!

Please let Linda know, at your earliest convenience, if you would like to reserve a table or booth space. Linda can be reached at lawilson87@hotmail.com or 747-3096 (evenings and weekends).

• Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors to meet on Monday, Feb. 6

The 2011-12 Sitka Local Foods Network Board of Directors at its winter board retreat on Dec. 3, 2011. From left are Lisa Sadleir-Hart, Doug Osborne, Maybelle Filler, Cathy Lieser, Robin Grewe, Linda Wilson and Kerry MacLane. Not pictured are Johanna Willingham-Guevin and Tom Crane.

The 2011-12 Sitka Local Foods Network Board of Directors at its winter board retreat on Dec. 3, 2011. From left are Lisa Sadleir-Hart, Doug Osborne, Maybelle Filler, Cathy Lieser, Robin Grewe, Linda Wilson and Kerry MacLane. Not pictured are Johanna Willingham-Guevin and Tom Crane.

The Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors will hold its monthly meeting from 6:30-8 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 6, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Building, 408 Marine St. (parking lot is off Spruce Street).

Key topics for the meeting include planning for the Let’s Grow Sitka on March 11, a recap of the Jan. 21 Sitka Local Foods Network annual meeting and potluck, an update on the Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center, an update on the Sitka Food Co-op, an update on recent work by the Alaska Food Policy Council, an update on the Sitka Composting Project (Sick-a-Waste), our new logo and t-shirts, planning for spring planting at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm and other community gardens, planning for upcoming events such as the Sitka Farmers Markets on alternating Saturdays from July 7-Sept. 15, and more.

Board meetings are free and open to the general public, usually once a month (except summer). We always welcome new volunteers interested in helping out with our various projects. For more information, contact Kerry MacLane at 752-0654 or 747-7888.

• Pacific High School and Sitka Conservation Society partner up to serve local fish in school lunches

Pacific High School student Jessie Young, left, co-principal Sarah Ferrency, center, and lunch coordinator Johanna Willingham load rockfish into the freezer at Pacific High School. an alternative high school in Sitka, Alaska. (PHOTO COURTESY OF TRACY GAGNON / SITKA CONSERVATION SOCIETY)

Pacific High School student Jessie Young, left, co-principal Sarah Ferrency, center, and lunch coordinator Johanna Willingham load rockfish into the freezer at Pacific High School. an alternative high school in Sitka, Alaska. (PHOTO COURTESY OF TRACY GAGNON / SITKA CONSERVATION SOCIETY)

Pacific High School now serves local seafood in the cafeteria and joins the growing ranks of schools connecting to local foods. Starting Wednesday, Feb. 1, Pacific High students will have a choice of local seafood dishes twice a month due to a partnership with the Sitka Conservation Society.

Sitka, Alaska, is the ninth largest fishing port in the country, but only recently did school children have access to the abundance of local seafood in school lunches. The project began in 2010 after getting more fish in school lunches was voted on as one of Sitka’s four health priorities at the Sitka Health Summit. The Sitka Conservation Society took the lead on the project and partnered with Blatchley Middle School in the winter of 2010-11 school year and then with Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School in 2011-12 to launch a Fish to Schools program. Due to the success of that program, it has evolved and spread to another school in the community.

Tracy Gagnon, Fish to Schools coordinator at Sitka Conservation Society said, “To kick off the new partnership, SCS’s Fish to Schools program will cook with Pacific High students to rally support for local fish lunches. A favorite recipe will be chosen for an upcoming Fish to Schools benefit.”

LOCALLY MADE– Americorps Volunteer Lauren Hahn, left, and Pacific High School students in the culinary arts program, Brendan Didrickson and Jenny Jeter, prepare a lunch of Caribbean rockfish with sweet potato fries, baked apples and wild rice at the school on Wednesday, Feb. 1. This was the first Pacific High lunch in the Fish to Schools program. The program began in 2010 as a Sitka Health Summit project when Sitka Conservation Society joined Blatchley Middle School to serve locally caught fish in school lunches. Since then, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School and now Pacific High have joined the twice-monthly program. On Wednesday, Feb. 8, SCS is inviting commercial fishers to join students at Keet for lunch. (Daily Sitka Sentinel photo by James Poulson, printed in the Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012, edition)

LOCALLY MADE– Americorps Volunteer Lauren Hahn, left, and Pacific High School students in the culinary arts program, Brendan Didrickson and Jenny Jeter, prepare a lunch of Caribbean rockfish with sweet potato fries, baked apples and wild rice at the school on Wednesday, Feb. 1. This was the first Pacific High lunch in the Fish to Schools program. The program began in 2010 as a Sitka Health Summit project when Sitka Conservation Society joined Blatchley Middle School to serve locally caught fish in school lunches. Since then, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School and now Pacific High have joined the twice-monthly program. On Wednesday, Feb. 8, SCS is inviting commercial fishers to join students at Keet for lunch. (Daily Sitka Sentinel photo by James Poulson, printed in the Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012, edition)

Unlike at the middle and elementary schools, Pacific High (the Sitka School District’s alternative high school) has more flexibility in the dishes it prepares with local fish. For example, the first Pacific High local seafood lunch will be Caribbean rockfish with sweet potato fries, baked apples and wild rice. Students help prepare the meals through the school’s culinary arts program. Every student earns their food handlers’ card and annually they cycle through a six-week cooking class. Students graduate high school with enough experience to enter into the cooking industry, bringing with them the knowledge to prepare scratch meals with healthy and local ingredients.

“We are striving to change the system by incorporating more local and traditional foods that the students want to eat,” said Johanna Willingham, Pacific High School lunch coordinator. “Through our innovative food-based meal program, the students are learning valuable life skills by developing recipes they enjoy and cooking with their local bounty.”

The Fish to Schools program creates new partnerships by uniting the local conservation organization and high school with community-based processors and fishermen. That partnership allows more students access to healthy lunches, as fish are packed with vitamins, proteins and omega-3 fatty acids that promote healthy hearts and healthy brains.

“Our community depends on the fish that comes out of the ocean, yet our school lunches were so disconnected from our local resources,” said Beth Short-Rhoads, Fish to Schools volunteer organizer, mother and fishing woman. “Thanks to Fish to Schools, our children now have access to local seafood. The fact that it is incredibly healthy is an even bigger bonus.”

There are more than 9,000 schools across the United States involved with local Farm to Schools programs. The majority of the programs serve land-based foods in the cafeterias, so Pacific High adds another layer by providing local seafood to students. This is an exciting opportunity to be part of the growing farm — or fish — to school movement across the country,” Gagnon said.

The Fish to Schools program also serves up local fish dishes at Blatchley Middle School and Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School on the second and fourth Wednesdays during the school year. On Wednesday, Feb. 8, the program is honoring local commercial fishermen by inviting them to join the students at lunch so they can share the meal and answer questions the students may have about the fish. (Editor’s note: On Feb. 6, Tracy Gagnon, Beth Short-Rhoads and students Grace Gjertsen, Zofia Danielson and Sienna Reid were interviewed by Robert Woolsey about the We Love Our Fishermen! promotion on the Morning Edition show on KCAW-Raven Radio.)

The Sitka Conservation Society has been working to protect the temperate rain forest of Southeast Alaska and Sitka’s quality of life since 1967. SCS is based in the small coastal town of Sitka, in the heart of the Tongass National Forest, the nation’s largest national forest. For more information, go to http://www.sitkawild.org. To learn more about the Fish to Schools program, contact Tracy Gagnon at tracy@sitkawild.org or 747-7509.