Micro-grants available to improve security of Alaska’s food supply

The Alaska Division of Agriculture is excited to announce that it is accepting initial “scoping” applications for the new micro-grants for food security.

The micro-grants program has a two-step application process, with initial scoping applications being submitted first. Then, the top projects from the initial applications submitting a more detailed application before money is awarded this spring. The due date for two-page initial applications is Feb. 15.

The global COVID-19 pandemic reminded Alaskans they live at the end of a long and sometimes tenuous food supply chain. These micro-grants are aimed at strengthening local food security.

“While Alaska enjoys the benefits of a global supply system, it is simply responsible to support home-grown systems we can rely on, just in case,” said David W. Schade, director of the Alaska Division of Agriculture. “We are fortunate to now be able to offer micro-grants aimed at enhancing our ability to be more self-reliant when it comes to necessities like food.”

At the urging of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the 2018 federal Farm Bill authorized the state to issue micro-grants to support innovative ways to improve Alaska’s food security. The division has begun accepting scoping applications for three-year grants of up to $15,000 for individuals ($5,000 per year), or $30,000 for qualified organizations ($10,000 per year). Individuals and qualified organizations can partner with each other to be eligible for combined funding (for example, if two individuals and an organization partner they would be eligible for $20,000 per year). The U.S. Division of Agriculture will provide $1.8 million to the division in each of the program’s first two years.

“We will prioritize funding of grants for projects that will increase local food production and storage, as well as education efforts to support these local efforts,” Schade said. Qualifying activities may include small-scale gardening, small-scale herding and livestock operations, and/or expanding access to food, safe food storage, and knowledge of food security.

Grant applicants must provide an initial scoping application to the division by Feb. 15. The division will then invite qualifying applicants to submit a full project proposal. Multiple individuals or organizations may submit joint applications for grants to support coordinated activities. The initial scoping application form and deadline information are available online at http://dnr.alaska.gov/ag/ag_grants.htm.

All individual Alaskans and many organizations qualify to apply for these grants, and the division hopes to have a strong batch of applications in the program’s first year. The security of two years of federal funding means projects the division cannot fund in 2021 will have another chance next year, Schade said.

“Alaska will have $1.8 million to help Alaskans grow more nutritious food locally and become more food secure. Individuals are eligible for up to $5,000 grants,” said According to Karen McCarthy, senior legislative assistant for Sen. Murkowski.

“Organizations such as Indian tribes and tribal organizations; non-profits such as religious organizations, food banks and food pantries; federally-funded educational facilities including Head Start and Early Head Start programs, public schools, public institutions of higher education, tribal colleges and Universities, and job training programs; and local and tribal governments that may not levy local taxes under state or federal law will be eligible for up to $10,000 in grant funds. Eligible projects are those that will increase the quantity and quality of locally grown food for food insecure individuals, families, neighborhoods, and communities — a pretty wide-open range of projects that Alaskans’ innovative thinking can really make exciting.”

The website, http://dnr.alaska.gov/ag/ag_grants.htm, includes a variety of information about the program. Click this link for access to a Facebook Live video presentation on Thursday, Jan. 21. Click this link for the PowerPoint slides used during the Facebook Live presentation. Click this link for the two-page scoping application form (which can be filled out online or printed and completed), and click this link for an application guide and instructions. Click this link for a one-page information sheet from Sen. Murkowski’s office about the program. Applications can be submitted by email and by regular mail, but they should be timed to arrive by Monday, Feb. 15.

If you have further questions, please reach out to Catherine Cheadle, the grants specialist who is heading up this program. You can call her at 907-761-3851 or email her at catherine.cheadle@alaska.gov.

Check out the November 2019 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the November 2019 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes short articles about how to join our board of directors, about our 2020 sponsorship program, and about #GivingTuesday on Dec. 3. Each story has links to our website for more information.

You can sign up for future editions of our newsletter by clicking on the newsletter image in the right column of our website and filling in the information. If you received a copy but didn’t want one, there is a link at the bottom of the newsletter so you can unsubscribe. Our intention is to get the word out about upcoming events and not to spam people. We will protect your privacy by not sharing our email list with others. Don’t forget to like us on Facebooklike our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@SitkaLocalFoods).

• UAF Cooperative Extension Service offers safe home food preservation certification class

Food preservation certificate flier

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service will offer a combined online/in-person safe home food preservation certification class series for residents of Southeast Alaska.

SarahLewisLoadsJarsIntoPerryAndMichellesCanner

Sarah Lewis loads jars of soup into a canner during a July 2015 food preservation class at the Sitka Kitch

This program involves students taking six online courses — on canning basics, canning acidified foods, dehydrating foods, canning high-acid foods and tomatoes, canning low-acid foods, and freezing foods — from Feb. 16 through May 13. Each online class has an option for slower Internet speeds.

After completing the six online courses at their own pace, the students then participate in a two-day workshop in either Juneau, Ketchikan, or Sitka (the Sitka in-person workshop is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, May 14-15, at the Blatchley Middle School Home Economics Kitchen).

The certification costs $200, and there are a few scholarships available. There is a limit of 20 students for each in-person workshop location.

“The main goal is to get local, Southeast community members trained up to offer information, gauge testing, and even classes, within their home communities,” said instructor Sarah Lewis, of the Juneau District Office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service. “But it’s also a great class for home/local food enthusiasts; planning to teach others is not required.”

To learn more, go to the UAF Cooperative Extension Service online registration page at http://bit.ly/ces-workshops. You also can contact Sarah Lewis for more information at sarah.lewis@alaska.edu or 907-523-3280, Ext. 1.

• UAF Cooperative Extension Service to give presentation on preparing food in an emergency

OWL Happy Health Hour Sept. 29

Thursday’s 6.2-magnitude earthquake just north of Anchorage was a good reminder about the need to be prepared, especially in Alaska when we’re so isolated from the rest of the country. In honor of September being National Preparedness Month, the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service‘s Happy Health Hour talk this month will be about how to prepare food during a power failure.

The talk takes place from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 29 (Happy Health Hour talks are the fourth Monday of every month) and is available at libraries statewide on the OWL Network. In Sitka, these talks are accessed at Kettleson Memorial Library, which right now is temporarily located in the old Stratton Library building on the Sheldon Jackson Campus.

UAF Cooperative Extension Service agent Linda Tannehill of Kenai will explain what to consider when storing food for emergencies and what food preparation options are available during a power failure. During a power failure, cooking and eating habits must change to fit the situation. We’ll cover what to consider when storing food for emergencies and what food preparation options are available during a power failure.

During an emergency — such as an earthquake, tsunami, or winter weather — the power can go out for hours, if not days or weeks. We also might lose our transportation infrastructure, meaning it could take some time to get a barge or airplane to town with emergency supplies. Individuals, families, and businesses should have spare food, medicine, portable stove and fuel, extra blankets, etc., to weather the emergency. Click this link to learn how to pack a home emergency kit. More emergency preparedness resources are available on the UAF Cooperative Extension Service website.

To learn more about the Happy Health Hour and this presentation, contact the UAF Cooperative Extension Service at 1-877-520-5211 or go to http://www.uaf.edu/ces/. You also can call Jasmine Shaw at the UAF Cooperative Extension Service Sitka District Office at 747-9440 for more information.