• Food security in Alaska a big issue in recent local foods news stories

Last week, the Anchorage Daily News’ Alaska Newsreader blog reported on a story from the Huffington Post’s The Daily Beast blog that ranked Alaska second in failing to properly feed its people. The story used data from a new USDA survey on household food security in 2008, where Alaska was ranked in the middle of the pack, but it re-ranked the states based on the household food security rankings combined with statewide income and access to programs (including bureaucratic issues) that feed the hungry. By the way, Colorado had the dubious No. 1 ranking. The Juneau Empire ran an editorial from the Washington Post about the USDA survey that compared food insecurity vs. hunger.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Science blog reported on a food security meeting in Fairbanks earlier this month hosted by the Sustainable Community Action Network for Fairbanks (SCANFairbanks, site hasn’t been updated in more than a year). The UAF SNRAS blog article mentioned food security projects from around the state, including work being done by the Sitka Local Foods Network. The Fairbanks Community Cooperative Market blog also had an article about the meeting.

The food security issue has been around for awhile. Earlier this year, the Alaska Food Coalition reported on Alaska’s Hungriest Communities. More than a year ago, back when Sarah Palin still was governor, Kim Sollien of the Alaska Trust Food Network (and Chickaloon Tribe) wrote an open letter to then-Gov. Palin detailing Alaska’s food security problems. While the letter is more than a year old, many of the issues still exist. Last year, the Christian Science Monitor ran an article about Alaska’s food challenges and how new farmers are coming online.

In other local foods news this week, the Tundra Drums reported that a teacher from the Kuskokwim River village of Quinhagak is receiving a $10,000 grant from former talk show host Jenny Jones’ foundation to build a community greenhouse.

Laine Welch’s Alaska Fisheries column this week discussed how more halibut this year was consumed in homes instead of restaurants.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported on a problem moose hunters in the Interior have been having with Tanana Valley Meats being overloaded so it’s taking too long to process the meat, processed meat returns have been light and some meat has been rancid.

Finally, the Alaska Dispatch reported on a KTVA-TV story about Permafrost Alaska Vodka, which is made by Glacier Creek Distillery and uses potatoes grown in the Mat-Su valleys, earning a top ranking from the Beverage Tasting Institute of Chicago.

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• Local foods a topic of several Alaska news stories over the past week or so

This has been an interesting couple of weeks, with food security being discussed at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention, subsistence rights and responsibilities in the news and other stories highlighting the local foods market in Alaska.

The Alaska Public Radio Network ran a story about food security being a hot topic at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention. One element of the discussion was a report from former state Sen. Kim Elton, now is the Interior Department’s senior advisor for Alaska Affairs, who said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar plans to upgrade subsistence management for the coming decades.

The Alaska Public Radio Network also ran a story (from KRBD-FM in Ketchikan) about an invasive plant species conference in Ketchikan and how to prevent the spread of noxious and invasive plants in Alaska.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner ran an article about how food grown in gardens on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus is finding its way onto the plates of UAF students at the Lola Tilly Commons.

The Alaska Journal of Commerce had an article about how wild plant seeds from Alaska are being stored at the Kew Gardens Millennium Seed Bank (aka the Royal Botanical Gardens) southwest of London.

The Alaska Journal of Commerce also had an article about Anchorage chef Robert Kineen of Orso Ristorante and how he is incorporating more local foods into his menus.

This week’s issue of the Alaska Journal of Commerce also has several articles about various fisheries, from whitefish to salmon to crab. Included in the issue is an article about how wild-caught Alaska salmon and Pacific cod made the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s recent listing of “super green” seafoods because of their health benefits, the sustainable ways the fish are harvested and lack of contamination. Here is a link to the full list from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Consumer’s Guide to Sustainable Seafood.

Former Anchorage Daily News Outdoors Editor Craig Medred, who now writes for the Alaska Dispatch Web site, wrote this column about how some hunters have lost their connection to the culture of hunting.

The Alaska Dispatch also had an article about tough times at the Triple D Farm and Hatchery in Palmer. The turkey farm was made infamous during a KTUU-TV interview of then-Gov. Sarah Palin video last year, when she was pardoning a turkey as a worker in the background was butchering other turkeys (a link to the video is with the story).

The Anchorage Daily News also ran an obituary for Lawrence Clark, 94, aka “The Apple Man,” who was one of the leading apple tree growers in the Anchorage area and a member of the Alaska Pioneer’s Fruit Growers Association. Clark also was able to grow apricots on his land in the Rabbit Creek area south of Anchorage.

The Fairbanks Community Cooperative Market blog posted this essay about sustainable agriculture in Alaska from Mike Emers, the owner of Rosie Creek Farm in the Fairbanks bedroom community of Ester (Rosie Creek Farm is the northernmost certified organic farm in the country). Emers writes about how he wouldn’t have imagined his life’s direction 10-20 years ago, and how becoming a farmer is such a departure for someone who comes from a long line of Jewish tailors. By the way, while you’re done reading Emers’ essay, check out the rest of the Fairbanks Community Cooperative Market site. This is a project to build a market specializing in local foods for the Fairbanks area.

Finally, here is an article from the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service about whether or not there are regions in the country that have lost their ability to feed themselves. The article focuses on a county-by-county study in the northeast part of the U.S. about what local foods currently are available, but it sounds like similar studies are taking place across the country.

• Juneau hosts second annual Juneau Farmers Market and Local Food Festival and other news

The Juneau Commission on Sustainability hosted its second annual Juneau Farmers Market and Local Food Festival on Saturday, and the Juneau Empire had plenty of coverage of Juneau’s only farmers market of the summer. Click here to reach the main story about the farmers market in Sunday’s edition of the Juneau Empire. Click here to read an editorial praising the idea of a farmers market and sustainable food.

In addition to the farmers market stories, the Juneau Empire also ran a feature about a Juneau gardener who is using aeroponics to grow his food. Click here to read the story.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on Sunday ran an article about the Fairbanks Community Cooperative Market, which is an effort to get 1,500 Fairbanks residents to buy $200 memberships in a new store that would emphasize local food and organic food choices (click here to read the story). So far the project has downpayments on about two-thirds of the memberships needed to launch the project.

Finally, this week’s Alaska Journal of Commerce has a feature story about alternative energy guru Bernie Karl, who uses geothermal energy to power 44 buildings over 450 acres at the Chena Hot Springs Resort, including the resort’s large greenhouses that can grow about 150,000 to 175,000 heads of lettuce a year and other crops. Click here to read more about the Chena Hot Springs Resort greenhouses and how they can be a good model for the Sitka Community Greenhouse project.