Eating Alaska by Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein to be shown online during Alaska Food Security Week

What happens when a vegetarian from New York moves to rural Alaska and marries a commercial fisherman? Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein explored this and other food security issues in her 2008 film, Eating Alaska.

Feb. 7-13, 2021, is Alaska Food Security Week and Eating Alaska will be shown in a free online screening from 6-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 11, using Zoom. After the movie, there will be a short panel session about how Alaska’s food security has changed over the past decade with Ellen Frankenstein, and Rep. Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage), Rep. George Rauscher (R-Sutton), and Rep. Mike Cronk (R-Tok).

This event is co-sponsored by the Alaska Farmland Trust, Alaska Farm Bureau and Alaska Farmers Market Association, in collaboration with the Alaska Food Coalition, the Alaska Food Policy Council, and the Food Bank of Alaska.

Eating Alaska is a serious and humorous film about connecting to where you live and eating locally. Made by a former city dweller now living on an island in Alaska and married to fisherman, deer hunter and environmental activist, it is a journey into food politics, regional food traditions, our connection to the wilderness and to what we put into our mouths.

In her quest for the “right thing” to eat, Ellen stops by a farmers market in the Lower 48 stocked with fresh local fruits and vegetables and then heads back to Alaska, climbing mountains with women hunters, fishing for wild salmon and communing with vegans. She visits a grocery store with kids to study labels and heads to the Arctic to talk with Iñupiat teens in a home economics class, making pretzels while they describe their favorite traditional foods from moose meat to whale blubber.

The postcard like scenery in Alaska may be a contrast to what most urban residents see everyday and the filmmaker may have gone into the wild, but she also finds farmed salmon, toxics getting into wild foods and the colonization of the indigenous diet.

Eating Alaska doesn’t preach or give answers, but points out dilemmas in a style that provokes discussion on questions such as:

• What is the ethical way to eat in Alaska-or anywhere?

• Is it better to shoot a deer than buy tofu that has been shipped thousands of miles?

• Where is your comfort level in taking a life for food?

This wry personal look at what’s on your plate explores ideas about eating healthy, safe and sustainable food from one’s own backyard, either urban or wild, versus industrially produced food shipped thousands of miles. Eating Alaska is also a thought-provoking resource for discussing our assumptions about gendered behavior and women’s relationship to the natural world.

• Sitka shows off its gardens to International Master Garden Conference cruise


InternationalMasterGardenersConferenceLogoSome 1,100 participants in the 2013 International Master Gardeners Conference were in Sitka on Wednesday, Sept. 11, when the Holland America Lines cruise ship Westerdam docked in town.

As part of the visit, the Sitka District office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service prepared a walking tour for the conference participants to show off local gardens and other highlights. The walking tour was a unique opportunity to showcase the challenges and methods used to garden in Sitka as well as interact with Master Gardeners from various locales. In addition to visiting Sitka, the Sept. 7-14 cruise took the conference from Seattle to Juneau, Glacier Bay, Sitka, Ketchikan, Victoria (British Columbia) and back to Seattle.

The Sitka walking tour started at Harrigan Centennial Hall and included a stop to look at apple trees by KCAW-Raven Radio, a stop at the Sitka Pioneer Home to look at the roses and other gardens, a stop at the Russian Bishop’s House (where kindergarten students from nearby Baranof Elementary School plant vegetables in the spring and harvest them in the fall when they return as first-graders). From there the walking tour went to St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (where the Sitka Local Foods Network grows veggies to sell at the Sitka Farmers Markets), then it was on to the Sheldon Jackson Museum and on to Sitka National Historical Park. The final two stops were at a garden on the Sheldon Jackson Campus (between the Yaw Art Center and Hames Athletic and Wellness Center), and on to the US Geological Survey Geomagnetic Station and UAF Cooperative Extension Service demonstration plots (at the site of the original USDA Sitka Experimental Farm (Page 7), which was the first in Alaska and had more than 100 acres of crops from 1898-1931).

Also at Harrigan Centennial Hall, Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein hosted a couple of showings of her movie “Eating Alaska,” which examines the food choices one makes, especially when they live in Alaska where produce can be marginal but fish and game are widely available.

UAFMasterGardenerProgramLogoThe Master Gardener (MG) program started in Seattle in the 1970s as a way to extend the horticulture resources of Washington State’s land grant university  to the urban horticulture public in Seattle. The Master Gardeners receive 40 hours of training, similar to a basic three-credit-semester-hour, college-level horticulture class.

In return for this low-cost education the MG participants provide 40 hours of service to their community using Cooperative Extension information resources from their home states. The MG service may be in food gardening, pest management, youth gardening, tree and landscape care, public gardens, etc. Since the initial Seattle project, Master Gardener programs now exist in every state in the U.S., as well as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries. A Master Gardener course was taught in Sitka in April at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus.

• Sitka garden walking tour map for 2013 International Master Gardeners Conference

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• Sitka-based film, ‘Eating Alaska,’ goes international for screenings, national for PBS premieres

“Eating Alaska,” a film by Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein about local food and how Alaskans make their food choices, is going international with screenings in Poland, Croatia, Scotland and Canada in the next two months. The film also will be making its PBS premiere with broadcasts on various public television stations around the country during September, including two in Alaska (one with a live Skype interview).

The international screenings will be highlighted when Frankenstein and associate producer Valerie Lipinski attend the Kuchnia TV Food Film Festival and National Broadcast Sept. 30-Oct. 9 in Warsaw, Poland.

The film also will be shown (without the filmmaker in attendance) Sept. 16-19 at KinoOkus (Cinetaste), which is Croatia’s first gastronomic film festival that will focus on food education, environmental protection and sustainable development. Eating Alaska will be shown on Sept. 30 as part of the Reel Food Film Festival sponsored by the Ottawa Main Public Library in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. During September and October, “Eating Alaska” will be shown as part of the Cineco Environmental Film Festival sponsored by the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

In addition to the international showings, “Eating Alaska” will be shown for two live audiences in New York — on Oct. 5 as part of the Meet the Filmmaker Series at the Hewlett/Woodmere Public Library (Nassau) and on Oct. 6 at the Port Washington Public Library. “Eating Alaska” also will be shown a little bit closer to home, on Nov. 5-7 in Fairbanks, at the Far North Conservation Film Festival for those people looking for a live screening in Alaska.

While it won’t be broadcast nationally, “Eating Alaska” will make several premieres on local public broadcasting TV stations around the country during the month of September (click here for full schedule). The film will be aired in Houston, Texas; Evansville, Ind.; Austin, Minn.; Broomfield, Colo.; Charleston, Columbia, Spartanburg, Allendale, Beaufort, Florence, Sumter, Greenwood, Conway, Greenville and Rock Hill, S.C.; Greenville, N.C.; Anchorage, Alaska (at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 14, on KAKM Channel 7, featuring a live Skype online video interview with Ellen Frankenstein); Durham, N.H.; Keene, N.H.; Littleton, N.H.; Eureka, Calif.; Elmira, Syracuse and Utica, N.Y.; East Lansing, Mich.; Milwaukee, Wis.; and Fairbanks (KUAC), Bethel (KYUK), Juneau (KTOO) and other Southeast Alaska communities including Sitka (at 9 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 30, and again at 3 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 1, on AlaskaOne).

• Sitka Local Foods Network featured in magazine article

The Sitka Local Foods Network is mentioned in the article, “The Search for Food Sustainability in Alaska,” in the March/April 2010 issue of Countryside & Small Stock Journal, a magazine of modern homesteading.

The article is written by Cathy Lieser, who recently moved to Baranof Island after several years living on a homestead in the Alaska Range. She mentions the work being done by the Sitka Local Foods Network to promote local food security and local gardens. She also mentions the movie, “Eating Alaska,” by Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein.

This article is not one of the articles posted on the Countryside site, but the editors did give us permission to post the article as a PDF document. It is posted below.

The Search for Food Sustainability in Alaska

• Two associated with Sitka Local Foods Network win awards at Alaska Health Summit

Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein, center, of Frankenstein Productions, greets fans after the Sitka premiere of her film "Eating Alaska" in October 2008

Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein, center, of Frankenstein Productions, greets fans after the Sitka premiere of her film "Eating Alaska" in October 2008

The Alaska Public Health Association (ALPHA) honored two programs with ties to the Sitka Local Foods Network during the Alaska Health Summit banquet on Dec. 9. Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein (and her Frankenstein Productions company) and the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska program both won the Alaska Community Service Award. According to ALPHA, the Alaska Community Service Award “recognizes an organization, business or group making a significant contribution to improving the health of Alaskans. It is ALPHA’s intent that nominees outside the public health tradition be considered for this award. A nominee does not need to be an ALPHA member.”

Frankenstein has produced several documentary films over the years, including “Eating Alaska,” which focuses on how we choose the food we eat. Eating Alaska debuted in the fall of 2008, and Frankenstein has taken it to film festivals all over the state and country. “Eating Alaska” received funding support from the SEARHC Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska program and other funders, plus technical support was provided by SEARHC health educators, physicians and dietitians. Some of Frankenstein’s other films include “No Loitering,” “Carved from the Heart,” “A Matter of Respect,” and “Miles from the Border.” She currently is working on a documentary film project with Haida weaver Dolores Churchill.

“As someone who fills in the occupation blank on forms with ‘filmmaker/artist,’ this award represents the fact that labels and lines don’t matter when it comes to social change and to making our lives healthier,” Frankenstein wrote from Austin, Texas, where she was attending a screening of Eating Alaska. “It not only validates my work, but represents your open-mindedness to the potential of working collaboratively and creatively with kids and adults, using art, media and storytelling to influence well-being and healthy communities.”

Frankenstein also sent this note to her e-mail group:

We just got the news the project has been awarded The Alaska Public Health Association’s 2009 Community Service Award for Health. In the process of making this film and in its use we’ve worked with nutritionists, health educators, medical and public health practitioners to add to the conversation about what we can do to make our homes, workplaces, schools and communities healthier and more sustainable. We appreciate the help everyone has given to the project to help us “contribute to improving the health of Alaskans” and others far beyond.

The SEARHC Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska program, which closes this month, was honored for the work it did over the life of its five-year grant (the national Steps to a Healthier US grant has ended, so that means all of the local grants that were part of the national grant also are ending). The Steps program funded 77 projects worth just over $1.1 million in 12 Southeast Alaska communities. Steps was one of the major funders and organizers of the Sitka Health Summit, which is where the Sitka Local Foods Network originated.

The Steps program’s goals were to increase opportunities for physical activity, improve nutrition and reduce the impact of tobacco in Southeast Alaska. The program also worked to reduce diabetes, obesity and asthma in Southeast communities. To accomplish its goals, Steps developed partnerships with schools, worksites, tribes and other community groups so they could change social norms and policies, and make evidence-based and culturally relevant interventions. In addition to the projects, Steps also hosted conferences and workshops to help programs learn how to work in collaboration.

The Steps program used the socio-ecological model, which emphasizes that an individual’s health status is influenced not only by his or her attitudes and practices, but also by personal relationships and community and societal factors. Nearly half of the 77 Steps grants (37) went to community projects, with the others geared toward schools and worksites. More than three-quarters of the grants (60) focused on improving nutrition and/or increasing physical activity. Together, the projects reached 128,000 people (with many people reached by multiple projects) in the communities of Angoon, Craig, Haines, Hoonah, Hydaburg, Juneau, Kake, Kasaan, Klawock, Klukwan, Sitka and Wrangell.

“Overall, the Steps initiative helped build capacity within communities, worksites and schools to work collaboratively, to plan evidence-based programs, and to monitor and evaluate program success,” said Grace Brooks, Steps Grant Manager. “Steps also contributed to an overall increased understanding of the importance of policy in supporting community, school and workplace health.”

In other local foods news from around the state this past week, the Alaska Dispatch ran an article about an indoors farmers market this winter at Anchorage’s Northway Mall.

Capital City Weekly featured a story by Carla Petersen about how the search for elusive cranberries is worth the challenge.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced last week that it is encouraging the use of catch shares to preserve the remaining stocks of halibut (the article features a photo from Sitka).

The Anchorage Daily News featured a story about Gov. Sean Parnell proposing to spend $1.3 million to research declining Yukon River salmon runs.

The Juneau Empire had a story about how an arts advocacy group in Juneau, Arts for Kids, has teamed up with Sitka-based Theobroma Chocolate Co. to offer SmART bars as a fundraiser for art scholarships for graduating seniors in Juneau.

The publicity poster for the movie Eating Alaska

• New curriculum guide released for movie “Eating Alaska” by Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein

The publicity poster for the movie Eating Alaska

Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein has released a new curriculum book for teachers using her movie, “Eating Alaska.” You can click here to download the guide from the New Day Films site, which has more info about the movie, or you can download the PDF file by clicking the attachment below.


• Sitka film featured in Palmer’s “Local Harvest, Local Food” film festival, a Sitka café featured for using local food and other local foods news

Food Film Fest Poster-2

Join the Palmer Arts Council for its inaugural “Local Harvest, Local Food” film fest from Thursday, Nov. 19, through Sunday, Nov. 22, at the Strangebird Consulting Office in downtown Palmer. “Good Food” screens at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 19; “Fresh” shows at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 20; “Eating Alaska” by Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein screens at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 21; and “Ingredients” shows at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 22. After the Sunday showing there will be a discussion about women in agriculture with Cynthia Vignetti. Suggested donations are $10-15 for all films except for Sunday, which is free.

A Sitka restaurant, the Larkspur Café, was featured in Capital City Weekly last week. The article talks about the origins of the restaurant, which is located in the same building as KCAW-Raven Radio. It also discusses the restaurant’s use of local foods, including owners Amelia Budd and Amy Kane purchasing produce from the Sitka Farmers Market during the summer.

In other local foods news from around the state, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently announced an expansion to the state’s subsistence halibut fishery to include more rural residents (this includes the Sitka area). The new rules, which take effect on Dec. 4, redefine who qualifies as a rural resident. The previous rules defined rural residents as people living in a rural community or people belonging to a Native tribe with customary and traditional uses of halibut, and the news rules try to catch subsistence halibut users who fell outside the previous definition. Click this link for more information about subsistence halibut regulations and applications.

The Daily Sitka Sentinel has been running a brief announcement from the Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s Kayaaní Commission, which is selling 2010 calendars, CDRoms and field guides about traditional uses of native plants. Here is the information:

Kayaaní Native Plant Publications Available: 2010 Kayaaní Harvest Calendars featuring native plants and their traditional and cultural uses ($16, $2 postage per address); Interactive Ethnobotanical CDRoms with native species, their Tlingít, scientific and common names, and interviews with Elders on the traditional and medicinal uses of plants ($15, $1 postage per address); Ethnobotanical Field Guides ($16, $1 postage per address). We will mail to the addresses of your choice. Order by Dec. 18 for guaranteed delivery before Christmas. Call or e-mail with your order: 907-747-7178,, STA Kayaaní Commission, 456 Katlian. All proceeds will assist the nonprofit Kayaaní Commission in protecting, perpetuating and preserving knowledge of native plants.

The Chilkat Valley News weekly newspaper from Haines featured an article about sixth-graders at Haines School learning how to compost their leftover food (including leftover meat) so it can be used for gardening. The school is working with the Takshanuk Watershed Council to teach the students about composting. The students call their compost project “Marvin” because it’s a living organism.

The Alaska Dispatch recently ran a feature called “Growing Season” that discusses some of the farms in the Matanuska-Susitna valleys that grow local food. The feature includes video clips of harvest time at a couple of the farms featured.

The Mat-Su Frontiersman had a feature called “Chicken U,” which is about raising chickens in Alaska and getting them to produce eggs during the winter months.

The Anchorage Daily News also mentioned Chicken University, which will be one of several presentations at the Alaska Farm Bureau annual meeting on Friday, Nov. 13, at the Millennium Hotel in Anchorage. Other presentations are on growing apples in Alaska and preserving your harvest.

The Anchorage Daily News also had an article about how to get local produce in Anchorage during the winter, either through the Glacier Valley CSA produce boxes from Palmer or the indoor farmers market at the Northway Mall.

Anchorage Daily News garden columnist Jeff Lowenfels wrote a column about how hydroponic gardening is easier and cheaper than ever. The column includes lots of links for people who want to try this method of growing food without soil (by the way, there is a hydroponic garden at McMurdo Station in Antarctica that keeps the scientists there stocked in fresh produce in a land of ice).

Fran Durner’s “Talk Dirt To Me” blog on the Anchorage Daily News site includes a post about how snow can act as mulch for the garden.

The Ester Republic, a monthly publication for the community near Fairbanks, runs periodic articles about sustainability and local food security issues. Some of the articles are linked in the archives, and the editors are working to get more of the past articles on these topics online so more people can enjoy them.


• Sitka Conservation Society hosts Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival


The largest environmental film festival in North America is coming to Sitka. Sitka Conservation Society is hosting the second annual Sitka tour stop of the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival on Saturday, Oct. 24, at the Sitka Performing Arts Center.

Doors will open at 6 p.m. with informative and action booths hosted by local community groups and organizations, including a booth from the Sitka Local Foods Network. The films will begin at 6:30 p.m.

“The films include narratives coming directly from people throughout the world engaged in protecting our natural resources and wild places,” says tour manager Susie Sutphin. “The films highlight the ‘tipping point’ that the planet is reaching. Yet portrays the ‘turning of the tides,’ as communities realize what needs to change and how they are responding with creativity, resolve and heart.”

One of the films scheduled to be shown on Saturday, Homegrown Revolution, deals with the local food movement. This film examines a family’s efforts at growing all their own food in the midst of a densely urban setting in downtown Pasadena, Calif. For over twenty years, the Dervaes family has transformed their home into an urban homestead. As a family for this new paradigm, they harvest nearly three tons of organic food from their one-10th-of-an-acre garden plot while incorporating many back-to-basics practices, as well as solar energy and biodiesel.

A new film trailer by local filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein — who made the film, Eating Alaska — will be shown during the festival as well as several other films from around the world.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. They are available at Old Harbor Books, Mountain Miss or at the door. Discounted and free tickets are available for individuals and families that sign up to be a Sitka Conservation Society member.

The film festival also will include door prizes and Young Alaskans Building Affordable Housing will sell concessions during intermission. For more information, go to (note, site down for maintenance this week) or call 747-7509.

• Recent articles highlight food security issue in rural Alaska

The New York Times on Saturday ran a lengthy article by former Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reporter Stefan Milkowski about how weak runs of king salmon are hurting Yukon River communities. The article is datelined from the village of Marshall, near the mouth of the Yukon River, where villagers already are feeling the pinch of no salmon to fill their freezers for the winter.

This is a region where heating oil costs $7 a gallon and a can of condensed milk goes for nearly $4. It also is a region that last year faced critical food shortages last year, with many faith groups from around the country sending food to help tide the residents through the winter. Click here to read accounts from “Anonymous Bloggers” about last year’s airlift and what villagers are doing to prepare for this winter.

The food shortages resulted in some July protest fisheries, which resulted in the arrest of the only police officer in Marshall, Jason Isaac, who joined other villagers in claiming state and federal fish and wildlife officials were more concerned with a Canadian fish treaty than they were about rural Alaskans. The Tundra Drums reports that 67,000 Yukon kings reached Canada, about 10,000 to 13,000 more than the treaty called for.

In relatively close-by Bethel, Tim Meyers and his wife Lisa have helped their communities food security with Meyer’s Farm, which is growing enough fruits and vegetables that Bethel residents can buy weekly boxes of locally grown produce for $30. This shows that local produce can be grown in rural Alaska to reduce our dependency on store-bought food.

Food security also hits closer to home, where state Sen. Albert Kookesh of Angoon faces a trial over subsistence fishing practices near his home village.

Not all of the local foods news in Alaska is gloom and doom this week. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner featured a story on Monday about the growth of the Delta Meat and Sausage plant in Delta Junction, which processes locally raised Galloway cattle and game meat shot by local hunters.

Also, this week’s Chilkat Valley News (Haines weekly) included a brief item about a Haines moose hunter who was the beneficiary of a snow goose dropped by a hawk that didn’t have the strength to carry its prey.

Finally, the Alaska Dispatch site includes an update on the inaugural Alaska Local Food Film Festival, which runs from Oct. 2-8 at the Beartooth Theatrepub and Grill in Anchorage. Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein presented her movie “Eating Alaska” on Sunday, Oct. 4.

• Alaska Local Food Film Festival featured on Alaska Public Radio Network and other local food news


The Alaska Public Radio Network’s Alaska News Nightly show on Friday night had a feature story about the inaugural Alaska Local Food Film Festival that runs Oct. 2-8 at Anchorage’s Beartooth Theatrepub and Grill. The story included discussion about the movie “Eating Alaska” by Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein, which will be shown on Sunday and feature a post-movie discussion with Ellen. The feature story link has streaming audio. Here’s a link to more information about the film festival.

Earlier this week, former Fairbanks Daily News-Miner editor Sam Bishop wrote an article about hunting and gathering in the season of the moose hunt. While centered on a September moose hunt Sam took with his parents, the story discusses the role of local foods and how people make their food choices.

Also in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner this week was a letter to the editor from Barry Brown about how to properly take care of the meat after a successful hunt.

Anchorage Daily News garden columnist Jeff Lowenfels writes a column about getting the garden ready for a long winter’s nap.

Finally, an article from a paper in Ontario, Canada — the Peterborough Examiner — about “Yes, they garden in Alaska.” The article is by Joan Harding, a master gardener for Peterborough Gardens, who took a trip through Southeast Alaska where she visited gardens along the way.