Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association seeks applicants to its Crew Training Program

Eric Jordan of Sitka, back center, poses with crew members (l-r) Alyssa Russell, Sarah Jordan (his wife) and Anya Grenier on his troller, the F/V I Gotta. Eric has hosted more than 40 young apprentices on his boat in recent years.

The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA), a Sitka-based fishing group, and partner organization Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust (ASFT) are seeking applicants for the Crew Training Program. Through a safe and well-guided entry level experience, the program aims to provide young people an opportunity to gain experience in, as well as an understanding of, commercial fishing and its importance to supporting coastal communities. 

Formalized as part of ALFA’s Young Fishermen’s Initiative in 2015 — in late 2017 ALFA was awarded funds to get more boots on deck statewide. Since 2015, more than 100 apprentices have been trained and placed on local fishing vessels in Southeast Alaska. This crew training program is a way to attract younger entrants into an industry where the average fisherman’s age in Alaska is older than 50. 

Over several years, ALFA Member Eric Jordan of the F/V I Gotta brought more than 40 young people fishing as part of ALFA’s budding Crew Training Program. While on the water, Eric teaches these deckhands the intricacies of commercial fishing and demonstrates sustainable fishing practices to encourage a strong conservation ethic. 

The Crew Training Program aims to 1) provide young people with an interest in pursuing a career in commercial fishing an opportunity to gain experience; and, 2) give young people the opportunity to better understand commercial fishing, the lifestyle it provides, and its important role in supporting coastal communities. All while providing a safe, well-guided, entry level experience.

 In 2022, ALFA and ASFT hope to place several apprentices with local skippers, and fishing vessels and  enhance local employment opportunities. As Executive Director of ALFA, Linda Behnken explains, “With support from numerous funders, we have been fortunate to expand the program to include more boats, crew, and communities. Our goal is to provide young people with a safe introduction to Alaska’s fisheries and to share the curriculum we have developed through our program with fishing groups in other parts of the State and country.” Already, we have shared the Crew Training Program curriculum with several organizations throughout Alaska and coastal organizations throughout the U.S.

Since the inception of the Crew Training Program, ALFA and ASFT have been awarded several grants to support this program from groups including the Edgerton Foundation, the City and Borough of Sitka, the Alaska Community Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). ALFA and ASFT are very grateful for the support of these organizations and from our community. According to funders, “the work funded by these grants will result in improved management that strengthens the welfare of fishermen and local communities, promoting healthy fish stocks and healthy fisheries.”

 ALFA and ASFT are seeking applicants for the 2022 fishing season. The crew training application period is currently open and will close March 15.  Applicants must be 18 years or older to qualify. It’s free to apply. Application information can be found at https://www.alfafish.org/crewtraining or by contacting Natalie Sattler at 907-738-1286 or program.director@alfafish.org.

Produce Safety Alliance Grower training scheduled for Feb. 23-24

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extensive Service are planning a Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training in February.

This free training takes place from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 23-24, using Zoom. Registration closes on Wednesday, Feb. 9.

This Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved course will satisfy the grower training curriculum requirements under the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule. There is no charge for class participants. Funding is provided by a FDA-State of Alaska Cooperative Agreement. Growers who attend all seven modules of the course will receive a FREE Certificate of Course Completion. The workshop is open to all interested growers. Please see the attached flyer for more information. Space will be limited, so pre-registration is required. Contact Dena at dena.cologgi@alaska.gov to register.

NOTE: This training will be held remotely using videoconferencing software (e.g. Zoom). Participants must have a computer or mobile device with audio and video capabilities, as well as access to a strong internet connection and adequate bandwidth. Attendees who wish to receive a Certificate of Course Completion will be required to use the web camera to ensure participation.

For more information, or if you require accommodation for a disability, please contact Dena Cologgi at dena.cologgi@alaska.gov or (907) 375-8212.

Sitka Kitch offers The Ginger Kitchen class on Feb. 6: Fancy Taters With Kayla Caprice

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Calling all potato lovers: are you looking for inspiration and a new way to eat your favorite food? Join the Sitka Kitch as Kayla Caprice teaches you how to make fancy taters as part of the Ginger Kitchen class series. This class takes place from 5-7 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 6, via Zoom.

In this class we will make a classic potato dish TBA, and make it simply, so that it is easy to replicate all of the time. It also will be a statement piece for your next small get-together. We will put together something new, fun, and different that will also help you use leftover potatoes (if there is such a thing.)

Kayla hails from the Southeast coast, more specifically, Florida. She grew up around the ocean and fishing, so Sitka was a pleasant transition. She has a background in early childhood development and school-age instruction, with an emphasis on cooking
and nutrition.

She lived in Seattle for a few years to pursue her love of cooking, learning, teaching, and community involvement. She helped educate adults and youth on cooking, nutrition and the food system with The Beechers Foundation in Seattle for more than two years. There she ran before- and after-school programs with cooking and baking clubs, as well as the school garden. She also assisted in classes at Culinary Essentials in Ballard under Chef Nora Dummer, cooked at the Artist Home for the Doe Bay Music Festival on Orcas Island, worked at Firefly Kitchens (a fermentation company in Ballard), and taught the culinary summer camp at The Stroum Jewish Community Center on Mercer Island in Washington.

Kayla has been living in Sitka full time for two years, and is the sous chef for Beak restaurant, and teaches classes on her own under ‘The Ginger Kitchen’. She taught a series of classes for the Sitka Kitch in the summer of 2019.

The class cost is $20, and we need at least eight people registered to make the class happen. Ingredients are not provided; however a list of ingredients and equipment needed will be sent to all who are registered. A link to the Zoom event also will be sent at that time. Please connect at least 10 minutes before the class starts.

Current (paid) members of the Sitka Food Co-op are now able to attend the online classes for $10 each (the co-op will cover the other $10 of your class fee). Please use the Sitka Food Co-op ticket when you register and send an email to sitkafoodcoop@gmail.com letting them know you’re in the class. (NOTE, Only one person per Co-op household may use the Co-op discount per class. Please name that person when you register so the name can be checked against the Co-op membership list.)

The registration deadline is 11:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 3. Space is limited, so register early to secure your place in the class. You can register and pre-pay using credit/debit cards or PayPal on the Sitka Kitch EventSmart online registration page, http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com (click on class title). For those wanting to pre-pay with cash or check, please call Chandler O’Connell or Kylee Jones at Sitka Conservation Society (747-7509) to arrange a payment.

For more information about the class, contact Jasmine Shaw at 747-9440. We occasionally offer one scholarship spot per class for people with limited incomes, provided we have enough students registered to make the class happen. Contact Chandler or Kylee at SCS for more details about the scholarship.

The Sitka Kitch is supported in partnership by Sitka Conservation Society with UAF Cooperative Extension Service. This class is a fundraiser for the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen.

The Sitka Kitch also has a new class cancelation policy. If you register for a class, then find out you can’t attend, please email us at sitkakitch@sitkawild.org and we may be able to help fill your slot through our waiting list. If you cancel from the class at least five days in advance (eg, by Wednesday the week before for a Monday class), you are eligible for a partial refund of your class fee, minus $5 for processing (in this case, $15 or $5, depending on if you are paying full price or getting the Sitka Food Co-op discount). If you need to cancel with less than five days advance notice, there is no refund.

Sitka to host community food system asset-mapping workshop on Feb. 19 using Zoom

Over the past year or so, the Sitka Local Foods Network has been working with a dozen other local and regional groups as part of a two-year USDA Regional Food System Partnership grant coordinated by the Alaska Food Policy Council.

As part of this work, the Sitka Local Foods Network will host a community-focussed food system asset-mapping workshop from 1:30-3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 19, using Zoom. The goal of this project is to examine the strengths and weaknesses of the 13 local and regional food systems, then use that knowledge to create a 10-year statewide food security plan. The workshop on Feb. 19 will use an outside facilitator, Lisa Trocchia, who is facilitating all of the regional/local workshops.

“Food security, or insecurity, is a big issue in Alaska and in Sitka,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “Hopefully this project will give us some strategies on how to improve Alaska’s food security. We have special challenges in Alaska, with our remoteness and climate, and we see that every time the grocery store shelves are empty or when we go to a village store and can’t find fresh fruit and veggies. If you have concerns about Alaska’s, and Sitka’s, food system, then this workshop is for you.”

Sitka has a bit of an advantage over some of the other communities involved in the project, because in 2014 we released the Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report, which came out of a Sitka Health Summit project. This gave us some baseline data about food security in Sitka. But most of the data is a decade old and is becoming dated. It’s hoped this workshop might inspire discussions that will help us update the report.

We want people from all parts of the Sitka community to attend this meeting — Alaska Native, Filipino, people on public assistance, people who hunt and gather, gardeners, commercial fishermen, people who run food businesses, young people, elders, etc. The broader the diversity in our group, the better our results.

If you are interested in attending, please RSVP by sending an email with the note “food security” in the subject line to sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com. You will receive an email a few days before the event with a Zoom link. Those who can’t attend on Feb. 19 still can participate when there is a statewide survey announced. For more details, contact Charles Bingham at 907-623-7660

Register now for the 2022 Alaska Food Festival and Conference

Registration is open for the 2022 Alaska Food Festival and Conference, which is going virtual on Friday and Saturday, March 18-19, this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It opens with a pre-conference movie on Thursday, March 17. This year’s theme is “Everybody Eats: Nourishing Our Culture, Our Health, Our Future.”

Hosted by the Alaska Food Policy Council (AFPC), the Alaska Food Festival and Conference previously took place in Anchorage in 2014 and 2016, in Fairbanks in 2017, in Homer in 2019, and was virtual in 2020. This year, as in 2020, the conference was scheduled for Anchorage before going virtual due to COVID-19. The event takes place every 18 months.

In addition to the Alaska Food Policy Council, this event is co-sponsored by the Intertribal Agriculture Council and the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) Dietetics and Nutrition Program.

The four focus areas of this year’s conference are: Policy and Education, Production and Harvest, Culture and Community, and Business and Industry.

The goals of the conference and festival are to:

  1. increase awareness of Alaska food issues among the general population;
  2. provide training, resources, and networking opportunities to increase involvement in local food issues by community members and decision makers; and
  3. increase connections and build community between the public, Alaska food businesses, NGOs, governmental entities, tribal entities, and others to support local economic development and innovative solutions.

Details for the event are still in the planning stage. But past conferences have included presentations on food systems in Alaska, food security/insecurity, traditional foods, farmers markets, agriculture in Alaska, fisheries, food policy, food waste reduction, and more. Other plans include holding an online auction, a youth track, and a pre-conference workshop with Alaska Village Initiatives.

This year’s confirmed keynote speakers and featured guests include:

  • Janie Simms Hipp, USDA general counsel
  • Eva Dawn Burke, University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Rural and Community Development and The Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy
  • Helga Garcia-Garza, executive director of Agri-Cultura Network and La Cosecha CSA
  • Caroline Cox (director) and Tiffany Ayalik (producer), Film: “Food for the Rest of Us” (special guests)
  • Iris Sutton, Ice Wedge Art and Farm (conference artist)

Before the conference, the movie “Food for the Rest of Us” will be shown at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 17, using Zoom. The screening and post-screening panel discussion are free, but registration is required by going to this link, https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_8huQr-GeR-W8UwCBXMhx7w.

“Food for the Rest of Us”, https://www.foodfortherestofus.org/, is a feature film that presents four stories of people living life on their own terms, serving as leaders who are lending their voice to the underdog and leading a revolution to a better world, from the ground up. An Indigenous-owned, youth-run organic farm in Hawai’i, a Black urban grower in Kansas City who runs a land-farm at East High School, a female Kosher butcher in Colorado working with the queer community, and an Inuit community on the Arctic Coast that is adapting to climate change with a community garden in a small geodesic dome. A panel discussion with the director and producer will follow the film.

In addition, the Alaska Food Hero Awards will be presented during the conference, and nominations are accepted at this link until Monday, Feb. 21, https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScJaHS_okDTYOdZojViXm4gC9w7C_v1J4uIpn4D9rVk0q1CyQ/viewform. A list of past Alaska Food Hero Award winners can be found at, https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/akfoodheroes.

People and organizations interested in presenting about Alaska food topics can submit presentation abstracts by Monday, Feb. 14, to https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeompK0G3jpNNFOeL1NOduc8QKG9tFPzNGaIAf0-VA9X6CVRQ/viewform. Information about previous conferences and their agendas can be found in the left column of this link, https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/2022-festival-conference.

If you’re interested in sponsoring the event, you can go to this link for more details about our sponsorship tiers, https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/2022-conference-sponsors.  

Registration costs $40-$150, depending on the package, and you can register at this link, https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2022-alaska-food-festival-conference-tickets-232976558157. Early bird registration and pricing ends on Monday, Jan. 31. You also can purchase an Alaska Food Policy Council membership at that link. Thanks to the generosity of the Intertribal Agriculture Council and the Alaska Farmers Market Association, a limited number of registration fee scholarships are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and you can apply at https://forms.gle/CPffkjzz3UuFWD7Y8.

A conference agenda will be available in late February. More details about the conference are available at this link, https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/2022-festival-conference.

For more information about the conference, contact Robbi Mixon at (907) 235-4068, Ext. 23, or director@alaskafoodpolicycouncil.org.

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The Alaska Food Policy Council (https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/) is a nonprofit organization whose diverse membership works to engage Alaskans to make positive changes for the state’s food system, and to create a healthier, more prosperous and more secure future for all.

The Intertribal Agriculture Council (https://www.indianag.org/) was founded in 1987 to pursue and promote the conservation, development and use of our agricultural resources for the betterment of our people. Land-based agricultural resources are vital to the economic and social welfare of many Native American and Alaskan Tribes. The harmonies of man, soil, water, air, vegetation and wildlife that collectively make-up the American Indian agriculture community, influence our emotional and spiritual well-being. The IAC has, over the last three decades, become recognized as the most respected voice within the Indian community and government circles on agricultural policies and programs in Indian country.

The University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) Dietetics and Nutrition Program (https://www.uaa.alaska.edu/academics/college-of-health/departments/school-of-allied-health/academics/dietetics-nutrition/) is a statewide education program that meets the growing needs of the dietetics and nutrition industry. This nationally accredited program trains entry-level, registered dietitian nutritionists, and community nutrition and nutrition science professionals throughout Alaska. Using an array of online and campus-based courses, the UAA Dietetics and nutrition program offers a minor in Nutrition, a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics, and a Master of Science in Dietetics.

UAF Cooperative Extension Service offers Certified Food Protection Manager class by videoconference Feb. 2-3 in Sitka

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service will teach a certified food protection manager workshop on Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 2-3. This is a two-day statewide class that will be offered by videoconferencing to Fairbanks, Palmer, Juneau, and Sitka, plus other locations that may arrange for the class.

A certified food protection manager (CFPM) is responsible for monitoring and managing all food establishment operations to ensure that the facility is operating in compliance with food establishment regulations.

A CFPM is knowledgeable about food safety practices and uses this knowledge to provide consumers with safe food, protect public health and prevent food-borne illnesses. Alaska regulations require food establishments to have at least one CFPM on staff.

This course takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and participants will take a proctored computer-based exam at the end of the second day of class. The reason the registration deadline is two weeks before the class is to guarantee course materials reach all the students in time. The cost is $200, and the course will be taught by Julie Cascio of Palmer. Students can register here, and the registration deadline is Wednesday, Jan. 19.

The Sitka videoconference for the class will take place in a room TBA at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus. To learn more, contact Jasmine Shaw at the Sitka District Office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service at 747-9440, or contact Julie Cascio at (907) 745-3677 (Palmer number) or jmcascio@alaska.edu. Note, this class is taught in English but textbooks are available in Korean, Chinese and Spanish, just contact Julie at least three weeks before the class.

Also, the ServSafe book ($70) and certification exam ($85) now are available online, if people want to order the book and study independently without taking the class. Just go to this website and purchase the book and exam items.

Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit postponed until 2023 due to Covid-19

The 2022 Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit, originally scheduled for Feb. 25-27 in Petersburg, has been postponed until the last weekend of February 2023 due to the Omicron variant of Covid-19, organizers Bo Varsano and Marja Smets wrote in an email.

“This was an extremely difficult choice; we want nothing more than to gather and share with you all this winter, however, we feel that no matter what mitigation strategies we implement, a conference that brings together folks from around Southeast Alaska and beyond for a long weekend of indoor activities runs too great of a risk of becoming a super-spreader event,” wrote Varsano and Smets, who run Farragut Farm near Petersburg.

The Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit started in 2015 in Petersburg, and was followed by events in 2017 in Haines and 2019 in Sitka. The 2021 Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit was postponed to 2022 because of Covid, and now it’s been postponed again to 2023.

People who already had registered for the 2022 summit will receive full refunds. They are asking 2022 sponsors if they can hold the donations for the 2023 rescheduled event.

“We feel strongly about the value of keeping this an in-person event, so we hope to reschedule the SEAK Farmers Summit for the last weekend in February in 2023, as long as our primary grant funding will allow for the extension. We will keep you all posted!” Varsano and Smets wrote. “In the meantime, we are working on pulling together a fun Zoom evening event to maintain connection within the community of growers and supporters, so keep your eye out for more details via email soon. … Sorry for the bad news, but you know what they say … ‘third time’s a charm!'” 

Sitka Kitch to offer Cooking With Culture class on how to make Tanzanian coconut chicken with Nalani James (Registration deadline extended to Jan. 20)

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Are you a coconut lover? Join the Sitka Kitch as Nalani James teaches a virtual class on how to make Tanzanian coconut chicken as part of the Cooking With Culture class series. This class takes place from 5-6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 22, via Zoom, and kicks off the second year of the Cooking With Culture class series.

Nalani chose this East African dish, also known as Kuku Paka, for the wintertime, in celebration of spices being the “original medicine.” Spices not only add flavor, but also boost your health and immunity. This recipe has a medley of spices that will thrill your taste buds and have your spice cabinets celebrating all your selections. We invite you to try out this warm recipe that will delight and surprise everyone with your culinary skills of flavonoids.

Nalani has offered many classes in Sitka and has been successfully teaching to the community special dishes to her soul.

The class cost is $20, and we need at least eight people registered to make the class happen. Ingredients are not provided; however a list of ingredients and equipment needed will be sent to all who are registered. A link to the Zoom event also will be sent at that time. Please connect at least 10 minutes before the class starts.

Current (paid) members of the Sitka Food Co-op are now able to attend the online classes for $10 each (the co-op will cover the other $10 of your class fee). Please use the Sitka Food Co-op ticket when you register and send an email to sitkafoodcoop@gmail.com letting them know you’re in the class. (NOTE, Only one person per Co-op household may use the Co-op discount per class. Please name that person when you register so the name can be checked against the Co-op membership list.)

The registration deadline is 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 19 (NOTE: Registration deadline extended to Thursday, Jan. 20). Space is limited, so register early to secure your place in the class. You can register and pre-pay using credit/debit cards or PayPal on the Sitka Kitch EventSmart online registration page, http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com (click on class title). For those wanting to pre-pay with cash or check, please call Chandler O’Connell or Kylee Jones at Sitka Conservation Society (747-7509) to arrange a payment.

For more information about the class, contact Jasmine Shaw at 747-9440. We occasionally offer one scholarship spot per class for people with limited incomes, provided we have enough students registered to make the class happen. Contact Chandler or Kylee at SCS for more details about the scholarship.

The Sitka Kitch is supported in partnership by Sitka Conservation Society with UAF Cooperative Extension Service. This class is a fundraiser for the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen.

The Sitka Kitch also has a new class cancelation policy. If you register for a class, then find out you can’t attend, please email us at sitkakitch@sitkawild.org and we may be able to help fill your slot through our waiting list. If you cancel from the class at least five days in advance (eg, by Wednesday the week before for a Monday class), you are eligible for a partial refund of your class fee, minus $5 for processing (in this case, $15 or $5, depending on if you are paying full price or getting the Sitka Food Co-op discount). If you need to cancel with less than five days advance notice, there is no refund.

Check out the January 2022 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the January 2022 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes short stories with a notice about the opening of the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend application period (and Pick.Click.Give. application) on Jan. 1, an update about how you can support the Sitka Local Foods Network by buying a t-shirt or hoodie from our online store, information about our 2022 sponsorship programs, and an invitation to join our board of directors. 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).

USDA awards Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) with funding to conduct assessment of local seafood security and seafood industry workforce

SITKA, Alaska – The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) is pleased to announce it was selected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to receive $209,100 from a Regional Food System Partnerships (RFSP) grant as part of the Agriculture Marketing Service’s Local Agriculture Marketing Program (LAMP). ALFA was one of 30 projects selected across 24 states to receive an RFSP grant and will use the funding to foster new partnerships around Alaska that help build a more resilient regional food system, specifically when it comes to local seafood access and seafood industry workforce development.

The impacts of Covid-19 highlighted long standing workforce development and food insecurity issues in Alaska. The seafood industry provides the backbone of coastal economies but relies on outside labor for processing, marketing, and shipping. Quarantine requirements led to significant labor shortages and high costs. In addition, currently less than 1 percent of the seafood caught in Alaska stays in Alaska to benefit the local economy. Alaska is one of the top five most food insecure states in the nation. It is estimated 95 percent of the $2 billion of food Alaskans purchase each year is imported, and 14 percent of Alaskans, including 20 percent of children, face food insecurity.

In response to the pandemic and food insecurity in Alaska, in March 2020, the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association formed a statewide coalition of nonprofits, tribal organizations, military organizations, city and boroughs, foundations, fishermen, and seafood processors to address food insecurity and workforce development challenges. The coalition was made possible with funding from Catch Together; a nonprofit that supports innovative conservation endeavors and fishermen-led efforts that address long-term access to local fishery resources. This initiative, which became known as the Seafood Donation Program, provided stipends and workforce support to the seafood industry and deployed $2.5 million to purchase local seafood for distribution, providing more than 630,000 free meals of Alaska seafood to individuals and families facing food insecurity. 

With funding from the USDA, ALFA will develop and implement a two-year assessment that looks at its pilot Seafood Donation Program and the feasibility of potentially continuing and expanding it into an ongoing program. In addition, the assessment will look at current seafood industry workforce development programs and identify gaps and barriers keeping local Alaskans from participating in the seafood industry. The project will culminate with the development of a feasibility study for a ten-year statewide seafood distribution and workforce development plan with emphasis on cultural relevance of seafood and serving marginalized communities. 

“We’re honored to carry this project forward and help lay the groundwork for new projects and programs in Alaska that could help make our communities healthier and more resilient,” said Linda Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. “Thanks to this support from the USDA, we’ll be able to work with a wide range of partners to assess where the biggest needs and opportunities are for ensuring that our local food systems are better prepared for future disruptions such as COVID-19, and that we have the tools in place to encourage local employment in our local seafood industry.”

As a “partnership” grant, ALFA’s project will rely heavily on the engagement of diverse stakeholders and will be guided by a formal steering committee including representatives from Alaska tribes, seafood distributors, national and state philanthropic and foundation leadership, chefs, community, and policy leaders as well as youth representatives. Some of these steering committee members will include founding partners of the Seafood Donation Program, including Sam Schimmel from Kenai, who helped spearhead several salmon distributions to Alaska Native families in the Anchorage and Fairbanks communities. 

“I’m really excited to be part of this project and help create new, locally grown solutions to some very complex problems,” Schimmel said. “We know that these needs are not going away, so this project is an important opportunity for us to all come together, share information, and figure out how we can ensure our Alaska Native communities continue to have access to the native foods that keep us connected to our traditions and to our cultures.”

“There’s no question that Alaska’s seafood industry faces a lot of challenges when it comes to workforce, whether that’s graying of the fleet or lack of new recruitment into the fisheries,” said Norm Pillen, president of Seafood Producers Cooperative in Sitka. “I”m looking forward to seeing what we learn through this project and how it can help advance conversations already underway about the future of Alaska’s seafood industry and our coastal communities.”

The funding is made possible through grant programs administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) as part of the Local Agriculture Marketing Program (LAMP) — the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), the Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP), and the Regional Food System Partnerships (RFSP).