This is the time of year when a lot of Sitkans have been out deer hunting, or they have a freezer full of fish caught in the summer.
Did you know recent changes to state and federal laws mean you can share your traditional foods with food service programs, hospitals, schools, senior meal programs, food banks, and more. Getting these traditional foods into food service programs is important, as it helps in the healing of sick or isolated elders and it helps connect young people to their local foods. But not all traditional fish and game can be donated due to health risks, so here are a few guidelines to follow from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Food Safety and Sanitation Program.
First, know what foods you can donate and which you can’t, and in what forms they need to be in for donation. You can donate most wild game meats, finfish, seafood except molluscan shellfish (eg, clams, oysters, cockles, scallops, etc.), marine mammal meat and fat (eg, maktak and seal meat), plants including fiddleheads and sourdock, berries, mushrooms, and eggs (whole, intact and raw).
You are not allowed to donate, due to high health risks, these items — fox, polar bear, bear and walrus meat; seal oil or whale oil, with or without meat; fermented game meat (beaver tail, whale flipper, seal flipper, maktak, and walrus); homemade canned or vacuum-sealed foods; smoked or dried seafood products, unless those products are prepared in a seafood processing facility permitted under 18 AAC 34; fermented seafood products (salmon eggs, fish heads, etc.); and molluscan shellfish.
When donating meats, the meat can be whole, quartered or in roasts. Donated fish should be gutted and gilled, with or without heads. Plants should be whole, fresh or frozen. The food service program accepting the donation needs to make sure the hunter/fisher knows if the animal was diseased, that butchering and other processing was done in a healthy manner, and the food will not cause a health hazard or significant health risk. When donating meat, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game requires a completed transfer of possession form.
There are a variety of additional rules regarding preparation, food storage and processing, and you can read all about them in the links below.