• Gov. Parnell signs executive order creating the Alaska Food Resource Working Group

AlaskaFoodPolicyCouncilLogoThe following is a note sent to members of the Alaska Food Policy Council listserv by Diane Peck, MPH, RD, a public health nutritionist with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Obesity Prevention and Control Program. Diane also is one of the lead contacts for the Alaska Food Policy Council.

Last Friday (June 28, 2013), at the Palmer Farmers Market, Gov. Sean Parnell signed Administrative Order No. 265 (http://gov.state.ak.us/admin-orders/265.html) to establish the Alaska Food Resource Working Group (AFRWG) to recommend policies and measures to increase the purchase and consumption of local wild seafood and farm products. This is a bit different than HCR 01. The AFRWG is composed of eight state agency commissioners or their designee. “The AFRWG shall collaborate with the Alaska Food Policy Council . . . and shall invite a member of the AFPC governing board to represent the AFPC at scheduled meetings.”

The goals of the group are:

  • Develop a mission statement that promotes increased use of locally grown and harvested foods within state and local agencies, institutions, and schools;
  • Identify factors that might discourage or prevent locally harvested and produced food from being purchased by federal, state and local agencies, institutions, and schools;
  • Review existing or proposed programs, policies, statutes, and regulations that impact the state’s food system and recommend to policymakers methods to improve coordination and implementation;
  • Identify research needed to support and encourage increased consumption and production of local foods within the state; and
  • Engage with the public to seek additional input on ways to promote the above-listed goals.

Lots of legislators and several commissioners were at the signing.  The governor said this elevates the group to “sub-cabinet” status.

To learn more about the Alaska Food Policy Council, go to its website or like its Facebook page. Sitka Local Foods Network board president Lisa Sadleir-Hart represents Sitka on the Alaska Food Policy Council.

• Alaska Food Policy Council press release about the executive order

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• Alaska Food Policy Council seeks people to join its five priority strategies action plan work groups

The Alaska Food Policy Council  is seeking Alaska residents to participate in five workgroups to help develop action plans for certain key food issues in the state.

A group of 30 council members met on April 4-5 to develop basic action plans geared toward five priority strategies to improve food security in the state. Now they need people to begin implementing the individual action plans. The five priority strategies are part of the Alaska Food Policy Council’s three-year strategic plan developed at its Jan. 12 meeting.

The five priority strategies include:

  • Improving school-based programs such as Farm to Schools and Fish to Schools;
  • Strengthening enforcement of the state’s 7-percent bidding preference for Alaska Grown food;
  • Improving emergency food preparedness plans throughout the state;
  • Serving as a research aggregator/resource to help people get a better handle on Alaska’s food situation and supply chain; and
  • Supporting local food efforts throughout the state.

The Alaska Food Policy Council got its start during a May 18-19, 2010, meeting in Anchorage. Sitka Local Foods Network treasurer Lisa Sadleir-Hart, a registered dietitian and SEARHC Health Educator, is one of the 30 members of the council.

These five work groups are open to anybody who has a special interest in the various topics. To learn more about the work groups, contact Lisa Sadleir-Hart at 966-8735 or lisa.sadleir-hart@searhc.org, or contact Alaska Food Policy Council Coordinator Diane Peck with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Obesity Prevention and Control Program at 269-8447 or diane.peck@alaska.gov.

• Alaska Food Policy Council School Programs Action Plan (Strategy 1)

• Alaska Food Policy Council Local Grown Action Plan (Strategy 2)

• Alaska Food Policy Council Disaster Preparedness Action Plan (Strategy 3)

• Alaska Food Policy Council Research and Information Action Plan (Strategy 4)

• Alaska Food Policy Council Public Engagement Action Plan (Strategy 5)

• Sitka represented at first meeting of new Alaska Food Policy Council

Kerry MacLane grills black cod for the Alaska Longline Fisherman's Association booth at an August 2009 Sitka Farmers Market

Kerry MacLane grills black cod for the Alaska Longline Fisherman's Association booth at an August 2009 Sitka Farmers Market

When the new Alaska Food Policy Council held its first meeting in Anchorage last month, Sitka Local Foods Network president Kerry MacLane was among the 80 or so people in attendance.

“There were nutritionists, politicians, state and federal government folks galore, Native groups, Alaska ranchers (of reindeer, musk ox, elk, goats and even cows), our one creamery, schools, WIC (Women, Infants, Children supplemental nutrition program), restaurants, truckers, a food wholesaler and even some people growing fruits and vegetables,” said Kerry, whose meeting notes are linked as a PDF file at the bottom of this story. “I was honored to represent Sitka at the first meeting of the Alaska Food Policy Council.”

The Alaska Food Policy Council is a new venture in Alaska, but food policy councils are becoming more common around the country at the state and regional level, especially as more people are becoming concerned about where their food comes from and what’s in it. The first meeting of the Alaska Food Policy Council featured guest speaker Mark Winne of the Community Food Security Coalition, who discussed what food policy councils do, and there was a panel of experts from around the state who gave brief presentations about different parts of Alaska’s food system. Many of the participants also took an online survey about Alaska’s food system, which helped provide guidance for the two-day meeting.

“This group will take a critical look at our current food system and start thinking about ideas for building a stronger regional system,” Daniel Consenstein, executive director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Alaska Farm Service Agency, wrote about the meeting. “Most of these stakeholders know that keeping more of our food dollars in Alaska will help create jobs and spur economic development. They know that if Alaska can produce more of its own food, we can build healthier communities and be less vulnerable to food disruptions in times of emergencies. The long-term goals of the Food Policy Council will be to identify barriers to building a viable Alaskan food system, create a strategic plan to address these barriers, and make the necessary recommendations to decision makers to implement this plan. Over the next year, this group will develop an action plan to make Alaska more food secure.”

Photo courtesy of USDA Agricultural Research Service Image Gallery / Photo by Scott Bauer -- The average American eats 142 pounds of potatoes a year, making the tubers the vegetable of choice in this country

Photo courtesy of USDA Agricultural Research Service Image Gallery / Photo by Scott Bauer -- The average American eats 142 pounds of potatoes a year, making the tubers the vegetable of choice in this country

Diane Peck of the Alaska Division of Public Health is coordinating the Alaska Food Policy Council, which is having its creation funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and from a two-year grant from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Obesity Prevention and Control Program (grant originally provided through the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention). Detailed meeting minutes and a purpose and next steps document are linked below as PDF files.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences posted a good, detailed wrap-up of the first meeting on its blog, and the University of Alaska’s “Statewide Voice” also had an article about the meeting.

The creation of the Alaska Food Policy Council has sparked regional interest in Southeast Alaska. The Health, Education and Social Services committee of the Southeast Conference will meet by teleconference at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, June 22, to discuss the Alaska Food Policy Council (click Calendar and Events on the link to get call-in numbers and codes). “We have opportunity to advance our local food production and utilize the bounty of our region to sustain our people and improve our health,” Southeast Conference executive director Shelly Wright wrote about the Alaska Food Policy Council.

“There are numerous benefits that food policy changes could mean for residents of Southeast Alaska,” Kerry MacLane said. “The bycatch regulations could be modified to encourage great recovery, processing and distribution. This would result in affordable fish in local markets, schools, health institutions and statewide. Federal, state and local government institutions would have more incentives and few restrictions to include local food in their purchases. More economic development funds could be made available to food system-related entrepreneurs. State and federal storage of (Alaska) emergency food supplies could be in our communities instead of in Portland, Ore. The Alaska Food Policy Council can help Alaskans increase our self-reliance and be more prepared for the coming rise in fuel costs.”

To learn more about the Alaska Food Policy Council, contact Diane Peck with the Alaska Division of Public Health at 1-907-269-8447 (Anchorage) or by e-mail at diane.peck@alaska.gov. Most of the council’s communication and meetings will be by e-mail and teleconference.

Minutes from the May 18-19, 2010, first meeting of the Alaska Food Policy Council

Purpose and next steps for Alaska Food Policy Council

Kerry MacLane’s notes on the first meeting of the Alaska Food Policy Council