City planner launches new working group to examine food security in Sitka and Alaska

Did you know Alaska is one of the top five most food insecure states in the nation? Sitka chief planner Michael Scarcelli is launching a new group to change that, especially in Sitka which Scarcelli considers “food insecure.”

“I know there has already been a great amount of exceptional work done in regards to local and regional food security reports and efforts,” Scarcelli wrote in an email. “The focal point of this discussion is to include:

  • “A brief overview of that work
  • “How food has been addressed in past and current comprehensive planning documents in relation to economy, socio-culture, community health, and environmental topics
  • “A discussion about the opportunities, strengths, challenges, and gaps within Sitka now
  • “How the Planning and Community Development programs can create incentives and remove barriers to help the community better provide food security, while also promoting the public health and safety of all Sitkans.
  • “A focus on opportunities for every day food security: lowering costs of food and increasing access to healthy food for the community at large
  • “Planning for the low-risk, but high impact catastrophic food emergency (including syncing Comprehensive Plan, Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plans, and Local Emergency Plans and efforts)
  • “Consensus building on final recommendations”

This informal working group will collaborate with me to draft some suggestions and information to a future Planning Commission discussion on the topic and may include suggestions for zoning changes, conditional uses and development standards for horticulture and agriculture, as well as a suggestion for how to better prepare for a catastrophic or major event that would impact food security in terms of long-range hazard mitigation planning.

In an interview, Scarcelli said in addition to a cataclysmic event that impacts food security (such as a tsunami), there are everyday events such as rising fuel costs or late barges that impact food security in Sitka. After he graduated from law school, Scarcelli bought a farm where he grew heirloom vegetables in Michigan, so he has practical experience in food issues. He thinks increasing the amount of food produced in Sitka is a win to the triple-bottom line. There are advantages to Sitka in the use of renewable energy, a shorter distance for the food to travel, better health to the community, and new jobs.

“One area I am specifically asking for help on is bringing a range of citizens to the table that offer different viewpoints, expertise, skills, and business perspectives,” Scarcelli wrote. “If you know of someone or a group that has an interest in this topic, please forward this invite. Included in this email are individuals that indicated interest in this group, chair and liaison to the Planning Commission, chair and liaison to the local emergency planning commission, and various business owners I felt may have an interest in the topic.”

In his email, Scarcelli included copies of six different local, regional and statewide food security reports that all can be found at this link on this website (scroll down), https://sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/documents/. He makes special note of the 2014 Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report.

Scarcelli has yet to set a time for the group’s first meeting, but he did include a Doodle poll with a few possibilities to try to find the time that works best for the most people. For more information, contact Scarcelli at 747-1815 or michael.scarcelli@cityofsitka.org.

Advertisements