Alaska Food Policy Council announces 2022 Alaska Food Hero winners

Top two photos: Cyrus Harris, left, Joanna Barton, center, and Chris Dankmeyer with first batch of approved seal oil made by the Maniilaq Association Traditional Foods Team in Kotzebue. Third photo: Milo and Bryce Wrigley in one of their barley fields in Delta Junction.

HOMER, Alaska (March 19, 2022) — The Alaska Food Policy Council announced three winners of its Alaska Food Hero Award on Saturday morning during a ceremony at the 2022 Alaska Food Festival and Conference.

This year’s winners are Cyrus Harris and the Maniilaq Association Traditional Foods Team (Kotzebue), the Wrigley family — Bryce, Jan, Milo, and Leah — of Alaska Flour Company (Delta Junction), and the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands Association (APIA) Traditional Foods and Wellness Programs. They were among a number of people or organizations nominated for the award by community members around the state. The three winners receive a glass plaque and a homemade quilt featuring the Alaska Food Policy Council logo made by AFPC governing board member Mel Sikes of Fairbanks.

Hosted by the Alaska Food Policy Council (AFPC), this sixth semi-annual Alaska Food Festival and Conference event previously took place in Anchorage in 2014 and 2016, in Fairbanks in 2017 and Homer in 2019. In 2020 and again in 2022, the conference was scheduled for Anchorage before going virtual due to the pandemic. In addition to the Alaska Food Policy Council, the 2022 event was co-sponsored by the Intertribal Agriculture Council and the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) Dietetics and Nutrition Program.

The Alaska Food Hero Award(s) are presented at the Alaska Food Festival and Conference, which takes place every 18 months Awardees demonstrate a substantial impact on Alaska’s food system, transform an aspect of their community’s food system, and make a difference for Alaska’s prosperity, health and self-reliance.

Past winners of the award are:

  • 2020 — Native Village of Savoonga Reindeer Crew (Richmond Toolie, chief herder, and crew members Freeman Kingeekuk, Michael Kralik, Nick Toolie, Sidney Kulowiyi, Scott Toolie, Kacy Pungowiyi, Christopher Miklahook, Ronald Kingeekuk, Derek Toolie, Derek Akeya, Justina Noongwook, and Orville Toolie); Chef Amy Foote of the Alaska Native Medical Center Traditional Foods Donation Center in Anchorage; and Marsh Skeele of Sitka Salmon Shares
  • 2019Tim and Lisa Meyers of Meyers Farm in Bethel, Lia Heifetz of Barnacle Foods in Juneau, and Heidi Chay of the Kenai Soil and Water Conservation District
  • 2018Robbi Mixon of the Homer Farmers Market, Alaska Food Hub, Alaska Farmers Market Association, and the Alaska Food Policy Council
  • 2016Kyra Wagner of the Sustainable Homer; Tyonek Tribal Conservation District, Outstanding Service Award goes to Diane Peck of the Obesity Prevention Program from the Alaska Division of Public Health.
  • 2014 — No award.

Short biographies of the winners follow below:

Cyrus Harris and the Maniilaq Association Traditional Foods Team (Kotzebue)

Cyrus Harris and the Maniilaq Association Traditional Foods Team have worked together to provide niqipiaq (Iñupiaq food) to elders at the Utuqqanaat Inaat long-term care facility in Kotzebue since 2015, through a state-permitted traditional food processing and cold storage facility known as the Siġḷuaq. In 2021, the team made years of hard work from countless helping hands a reality by achieving State of Alaska approval for serving seal oil.

They used experimentation and a pasteurization process to reduce the risk of botulism, a rare but deadly foodborne illness linked with traditionally made seal oil. Now, the elders at the Utuqqanaat Inaat are able to enjoy on-demand the seal oil they grew up eating daily. The team hopes to expand the list of safe and nutritious niqipiaq foods offered to the elders and share lessons learned with other tribal groups across the continent interested in serving traditional foods in long-term care settings.

The Wrigley family — Bryce, Jan, Milo, and Leah (Delta Junction)

Settling in Delta Junction, Alaska back in 1983, the Wrigleys imagined building a farm that would increase Alaska’s food security, create markets for fellow farmers, provide healthy, locally grown food options, and offer their children the opportunity to continue the operation into the future. The Wrigleys knew Alaska’s unique conditions — a short growing season and long, dark winters — would require innovative farming techniques and never-say-quit determination.

They use sustainable farming practices on their 1,700-acre farm, on which Bryce and Jan raised five children. In 2011, their hard work, perseverance, and passion for nutritious, locally grown products paid off when they founded the Alaska Flour Company, the only commercial flour mill in Alaska. (The next nearest mill is more than 1,500 miles away.)

Aleutian and Pribilof Islands Association (APIA) Traditional Foods and Wellness Programs

The Traditional Foods and Wellness Programs at APIA work in tandem to carry out food-related initiatives and are dedicated to supporting the health and wellness of the Unangax̂ people. Current projects are focused on working with elders and community leaders to preserve traditional food knowledge and address food access and food security throughout the region.

One exceptional team member working with these programs is Sally Swetzof, from Atka. Sally grew up living a subsistence lifestyle and has been able to pass this cultural knowledge down, not only to her children and grandchildren, but also to her greater Unangax̂ community. She is a respected elder and mentor on a variety of traditional practices, including traditional Unangax̂ food harvesting, preparation, and preservation. She is also a fluent speaker in the traditional Atkan dialect of the Unangam Tunuu language and has been a leader in revitalizing the language.

Sally has been a tremendous resource and an essential team member in many projects at APIA, including most recently being involved in the Qaqamiigux: Traditional Foods Film Series. Sally is a central figure in many of the films, including the topics of: chocolate lily, reindeer, eider duck, and bidarki. Her involvement in the project has been key to the success of the films in light of her skills as an educator, traditional knowledge bearer, and fluent Unangam Tunuu speaker.

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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.

Agenda released for the Alaska Food Festival and Conference scheduled for March 17-19

HOMER, Alaska (March 10, 2022) — The agenda has been released for the 2022 Alaska Food Festival and Conference, which is going virtual on Thursday through Saturday, March 17-19, this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s theme is “Everybody Eats: Nourishing Our Culture, Our Health, Our Future.”

This year’s agenda includes a variety of presentation topics, including a tribal youth track, a legislative update, the American Indian foods program, seaweed mariculture and wild harvest, sustaining traditional foods with science and technology, navigating the USDA for tribes, the Micro-Grants for Food Security program, and many others. These are just a small portion of the scheduled presentations, and the full agenda can be found at this link, https://whova.com/embedded/event/afpc_202203/?utc_source=ems.

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.

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. The event opens with a movie, a tribal youth track for ages 10 through college (https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/2022-festival-conference, scroll down for info), and a pre-conference workshop with Alaska Village Initiatives on working with Alaska Native groups on collaborations (this workshop is free but pre-registration is required by going to this link, https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYlce2trjIqGdPZ9XNt1x53SRm6jd3gQmRe). Other plans include holding an online auction (https://www.32auctions.com/AFPC2022) and a conference online swag shop (https://www.bonfire.com/store/alaska-food-policy-council/).

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://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0qdeChrT0tG9DzyKsjJA5NKuE49P3Rpzjb.

“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.

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)

In addition, the three Alaska Food Hero Awards will be presented during the conference. A list of past Alaska Food Hero Award winners can be found at, https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/akfoodheroes.

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. 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 (by March 13) at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSf7U8nZPRg9zyK9TWGDOahsMgT2Cc58tEG4WrPDO64NMxTmrw/viewform.

More details about the 2022 Alaska Food Festival and Conference are available at this link, https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/2022-festival-conference.

For more information about the conference and the Alaska Food Policy Council (https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/), 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.

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.

###

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.