• SEARHC, Cooperative Extension to host free food preservation and entrepreneurship workshops at Sitka Kitch


The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) WISEFAMILIES Traditional Foods program and the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service are teaming up to offer a series of four free food preservation and entrepreneurship workshops on Thursday through Saturday, July 16-18, at the Sitka Kitch. There also will be free pressure canner gauge testing at the Sitka Farmers Market on July 18.

The Sitka Kitch is a rental community commercial kitchen project coordinated by the Sitka Conservation Society, in partnership with the Sitka Local Foods Network, located inside the First Presbyterian Church, 505 Sawmill Creek Road. The Sitka Kitch was a project from the 2013 Sitka Health Summit designed to improve food security in Sitka while also providing a space for people wanting to get into the cottage food business or wanting to preserve their harvest for storage in the home pantry. Sitka Kitch officially opened in March 2015 after a series of renovations to make it pass Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation commercial kitchen food safety standards.

UAF Southeast Extension Agent Sarah Lewis of the Juneau District Office will teach four classes — Cottage Foods and Beyond, Pickling and Fermenting, Canning Salmon and Berries, and Canning Soups and Sauces. These classes are open to Sitka residents of all ages, but an adult must accompany those younger than 14 years old. Class sizes are limited to 16 people. Thanks to a grant from the SEARHC WISEFAMILIES Traditional Foods program, all ingredients, jars, and equipment will be supplied in class.

“The WISEFAMILIES Traditional Foods program is partnering with the UAF Cooperative Extension Service because their work complements our purposes, which is to help Native families reduce their risk for disease while working toward getting back to a traditional way of eating,” said SEARHC Health Educator Clara Gray, of the SEARHC WISEFAMILIES Traditional Foods program.

The SEARHC WISEFAMILIES Traditional Foods program promotes healthy lifestyles by connecting Alaska Natives in Southeast Alaska to their culture. Members of the program learn how to harvest, cook, and preserve their traditional Alaska Native foods, which usually are healthier than heavily processed store-bought foods. In addition, participants learn traditional language, dancing, carving, weaving, and other skills that help reconnect them to their culture.

SarahLewisWithBoilingPotsThe UAF Cooperative Extension Service offers a variety of programs geared toward food, how to grow it, how to preserve it for storage, and how to make it into cottage foods you can sell. For those who can’t make the classes, the service offers a series of free online tutorials about home canning called Preserving Alaska’s Bounty.

“As a UAF Cooperative Extension Agent, I try to teach that family and community resilience are strengthened when local foods are used to cook meals at home,” Lewis said. “Through my food preservation and entrepreneurship workshops I offer the knowledge and skills needed for people to discover the nutritional benefits and financial stability that come from making and preserving homemade meals with local ingredients.”

Here are the details and schedules of the four classes:

  • Cottage Foods and Beyond, 2-4 p.m., Thursday, July 16 — Learn to safely make and legally sell your local foods. This class explains the DEC Cottage Foods Exemptions, as well as steps to take when you’re ready to go “beyond cottage foods.”
  • Pickling and Fermenting, 6:30-9:30 p.m., Thursday, July 16 — Sauerkraut, kim-chi, vinegars, pickled vegetables and non-alcoholic beverages. Come learn the basics of lacto-fermentation and vinegar pickling for tasty home-made snacks and digestive health.
  • Canning Salmon and Berries, 4-9 p.m., Friday, July 17 — Waterbath and pressure canning for people of all experience levels, with a focus on these two favorite Southeast foods.
  • Canning Soups and Sauces, 3-8 p.m., Saturday, July 18 — Home-canned soups and sauces save time, money and meal-time hassles. Come learn how to easily and safely pressure and waterbath can ready-to-eat meals and side dishes for your pantry.

In addition to teaching the four classes, Lewis will offer free pressure canner gauge testing at the Sitka Farmers Market, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 18, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall, 235 Katlian Street. She also will provide other resources about home canning and food preservation. To ensure safe canning, pressure canner dial gauges should be tested every year for accuracy.

Due to limited class space, please pre-register by Wednesday, July 15, to ensure a spot. To pre-register, contact Jasmine Shaw of the Sitka District Office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service at 747-9440 or jdshaw2@alaska.edu.

• Seventh annual Sitka Health Summit helps celebrate a culture of wellness in Sitka

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The seventh annual Sitka Health Summit is coming up, and this year’s event features health fair, lunch-and-learn, community planning day and community wellness awards.

This annual event got its start in 2007, when leaders from Sitka Community Hospital and the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) got together to try and build bridges between their health organizations. Working with other partners, they created the Sitka Health Summit as a way to help improve the health culture in Sitka.

Summit_LogoThis year’s summit opens with the Sitka Community Health Fair, which takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21, at Sweetland Hall on the Sheldon Jackson Campus. This event features workers from the Alaska Health Fair Inc., who will provide a variety of medical tests such as cholesterol checks, glucose tests, vision screenings, flu shots, and more. It also includes informational booths from a variety of health-related programs in Sitka.

At noon on Monday, Sept. 23, at Kettleson Memorial Library will be a lunch-and-learn with Dr. Don Lehmann, a local physician and sports medicine specialist. He will give a brief talk called “Whistle While You Walk,” which will feature highlights about Sitka’s trail system. Participants can enter for a chance to win a set of walking sticks.

The “Community Planning Day: Selecting Sitka’s Wellness Goals” is from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 27, at Sweetland Hall. This all-day event is when members of the community get together and select two community wellness projects to work on this year. The two projects will receive $1,500 in seed money, plus facilitation to help get the project going. Last year’s three winning projects included the Sitka Downtown Revitalization project, Walk Sitka‘s work in applying for a Walk Friendly Communities award, and the Sitka Community Food Assessment. Some of the top projects from previous years include the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community award applications in 2008 and 2012, the Choose Respect mural at Blatchley Middle School to raise awareness about sexual and domestic violence, the Sitka Outdoor Recreation Coalition’s Get Out, Sitka! project to get more families and kids outdoors, supporting the Hames Athletic and Wellness Center as a community resource, etc. There also have been several projects related to local foods, such as creating a Sitka Farmers Market, expanding community gardens and building a community greenhouse, planting dozens of fruit trees around town, promoting more local fish in school lunches, community composting,, and more. The first 65 people to RSVP will receive a free lunch (contact Clara Gray at clara.gray@searhc.org).

Finally, this year’s Sitka Community Wellness Champion Awards will be presented as part of the Monthly Grind at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 5, at the Sheet’ká Kwáan Naa Kahídi on Katlian Street. The awards are made in a variety of categories, such as physical fitness, nutrition, tobacco control and policy, holistic health, injury prevention, and general wellness.

For more information, call Doug Osborne at 966-8734 or go to the Sitka Health Summit’s website at http://www.sitkahealthsummitak.org/.