• Deadline extended on Sitka Community Food Assessment to get more completed surveys

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The deadline for surveys to be completed in the Sitka Community Food Assessment has been extended to the end of the month. Our goal is 600 completed surveys and as of Tuesday, May 21, we had 392 that had been recorded.

The Sitka Community Food Assessment is a 2012 Sitka Health Summit project designed to help shape food policy and improve Sitka’s food security. To learn more about the project, KCAW-Raven Radio hosted an interview with project coordinator Lisa Sadleir-Hart that aired on Monday, May 20.

Additional information can be found in this March 26 post on the Sitka Local Foods Network website, and in this April 9 article from the Daily Sitka Sentinel.

Surveys are available online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MQTF22Q, or click the Sitka Community Food Assessment logo in the right column of this webpage. Printed copies are available at Kettleson Memorial Library. A sign has been posted at the corner of Lincoln and Lake streets to update people on the progress of the project.

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• Sitka Community Food Assessment featured in the Tuesday, April 9, issue of the Daily Sitka Sentinel

Courtney Bobsin, a Jesuit Volunteer with the Sitka Conservation Society who is helping the Sitka Community Food Assessment collect data, has her computer logged in and ready to take the survey. (Daily Sitka Sentinel photo by James Poulson, used with permission)

Courtney Bobsin, a Jesuit Volunteer with the Sitka Conservation Society who is helping the Sitka Community Food Assessment collect data, has her computer logged in and ready to take the survey. (Daily Sitka Sentinel photo by James Poulson, used with permission)

(This article originally appeared in the Tuesday, April 9, 2013, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel. It is used here with permission.)

Sitkans Taking Stock of Local Food Security

By SHANNON HAUGLAND
Sentinel Staff Writer

SitkaCommunityFoodAssessmentLogoCan you afford to eat the foods you want in Sitka?

How long could you survive on the food you have in your house today?

How often do you eat foods that are gathered locally?

The Sitka Food Security Survey is trying to find the answers to these and other questions related to food security in Sitka.

The survey is one of the projects of the Sitka Community Food Assessment group that was started at the 2012 Health Summit last fall.

“Community food security is looking at how secure are we as a community if for some reason something happened in the Lower 48 and we couldn’t get barges up here,” said Lisa Sadleir-Hart, the community food assessment coordinator for the Sitka Community Food Assessment project. “Are there things we could do differently? … We’re pretty dependent on the food coming from outside.”

The group is looking at food security from both a household standpoint and a community standpoint. While some information has been collected, more is needed on a home-by-home basis, Sadleir-Hart said.

To that end, Sadleir-Hart is hoping residents go online to participate in the food security survey to document where the problems are, where the strengths are and how to start addressing the shortcomings. The assessment will make it easier to apply for grants to help the community strengthen its food security position, she said.

“Our goal is 600 completed surveys, which is about 10 percent of the adult population here,” she said. She has set a tentative deadline by the end of this month.

Among many of the issues considered, Sadleir-Hart wonders how the 44-percent increase in food prices from 2006 to 2011 is affecting choices residents are making.

“Given these increases, fuel prices, housing prices, housing costs, at some point you have to make a decision: if you pay for one you might not be able to pay for something else,” she said. “People are hurting when it comes to food.”

The survey asks whether residents are able to eat as much as they need, and eat the foods they want to eat, or if they make sacrifices or eat less in order to feed others, when they are financially strapped.

Some of the focus in the survey is whether residents take advantage of foods that are available locally, including fish, deer, mushrooms, seaweed and berries, among the dozens of possibilities. Some questions are aimed at traditional and customary foods.

From a community standpoint, some data already indicates a level of “insecurity,” since 95 percent of the food Sitkans consume is shipped in from the Lower 48.

“Does our community have the capacity to feed itself if a natural disaster left us isolated?” is one of the survey’s underlying questions.

The assessment project’s goals are to create a community food security profile; map Sitka’s existing food resources and production capacity; and assess household food security, food accessibility, and food availability and affordability.

The work group for the project said community food security is a relatively new concept that covers a variety of disciplines, including community nutrition, nutrition education, public health, sustainable agriculture, and anti-hunger and community development.

“As such, no universally accepted definition exists,” the group said in a handout.

Sadleir-Hart said community food security can be seen as an expansion of the concept of household food security.

“Whereas household food security is concerned with the ability to acquire food at the household level, community food security focuses on the underlying social, economic and institutional factors within a community that affect the quantity and quality of food available …” the handout said.

Affordability is another issue that can affect community food security, Sadleir-Hart said.

The Sitka Community Food Assessment group from the Sitka Health Summit started by collecting data already available locally. Sitka Conservation Society contributed the Jesuit Volunteer, Courtney Bobsin, to work part-time to collect data on local producers, senior and tribal food programs, food banks and other food assistance programs.

“She’s been collecting lots of great information,” Sadleir-Hart said.

The assessment team is using the Food Security Toolkit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to guide the process. Sadleir-Hart said the local effort received a head-start on the assessment by looking at Kenai’s food security survey designed by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service. The Sitka Local Foods Network, which runs the Sitka Farmers Market, is also involved in the project.

The Sitka Community Food Assessment project received a $15,000 SEARHC Community Transformation Grant to fund Sadleir-Hart’s part-time position, and data analysis.

The goals of the assessment are to improve Sitka’s understanding of the local food system, identify the system’s strengths and weaknesses, inform decisions about policies and ways to improve Sitka’s security, and position Sitka to access grant funding for food system improvement.

Years ago, Sadleir-Hart said, more people in Sitka had vegetable gardens and some kept milk cows and other farm animals. The potential for increasing the amount of locally produced food still exists, and with it the prospect for economic development.

“There are a lot of different angles we could explore, from a community perspective,” she said.

Focus groups are also being called to continue to collect information about food and the community.

The Sitka Community Food Assessment group is looking ahead to the first annual Sitka Food Summit in November, when citizens review the findings of the data collection and start talking about ways to improve the current food system.

The survey can be reached by typing Sitka Community Food Assessment on Facebook, and going to the “Survey Monkey” link. The survey is filled out anonymously. The direct link to the survey is: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MQTF22Q.

• Sitka Community Food Assessment project launches community survey to look at food security and resiliency in Sitka

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OnepagerFinalThe Sitka Community Food Assessment work group is encouraging Sitkans to complete a 36-question survey that explores questions about local, wild food, seafood, game and plants (i.e., how do you fish, hunt, gather and/or grow). It also explores issues of food security, as well as where folks shop and how much food they store.

The data collected will augment data coming from our secondary data collection efforts, which focuses on sport and subsistence harvest data for fish and game,  as well as data on food assistance programs, food producers and food costs. It also will include focus group data that we will be gathering over the next 4-6 weeks.

FoodAssessmentDefsCollectively, the work group hopes to present the findings at a Sitka Food Summit that will take place in November 2013. Then the group will begin strategic planning to address our issues and improve food access for all Sitkans.

A link to the survey can be found on the Sitka Community Food Assessment page on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/SitkaCommunityFoodAssessment), or by going directly to the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MQTF22Q.

Paper copies of the survey are available at the Kettleson Memorial Library.  The survey is open through the end of April.  For more information, email sitkafoodassessment@gmail.com. This is one of three community wellness projects voted on for this year by Sitka residents attending the 2012 Sitka Health Summit.

• Sitka Community Food Assessment one-page fact sheet

• Sitka Community Food Assessment food security definitions

• Sitka Health Summit presents seed money check to Community Food Assessment for a Food Resilient Sitka project

FOOD ASSESSMENT DOUGH: From left, Sitka Health Summit Steering Committee members Ellen Daly, Elisabeth Crane and Penny Lehmann present a check for project seed money to representatives from the Community Food Assessment for a Food Resilient Sitka community wellness project, Renae Mathson (fourth from left), Sabrina Cimerol, Garrett Bauer and Courtney Bobsin.

FOOD ASSESSMENT DOUGH: From left, Sitka Health Summit Steering Committee members Ellen Daly, Elisabeth Crane and Penny Lehmann present a check for project seed money to representatives from the Community Food Assessment for a Food Resilient Sitka community wellness project, Renae Mathson (fourth from left), Sabrina Cimerol, Garrett Bauer and Courtney Bobsin.

Representatives from the Sitka Health Summit recently presented a check for seed money to the Community Food Assessment for a Food Resilient Sitka project. The project is one of three community wellness projects that came out of the 2012 Sitka Health Summit in October, and the food assessment will help Sitka improve its food security.

The food assessment will take various forms, from polling local grocery stores and shipping companies to try and gauge how much food comes into the community to developing a survey for community members and families about how much food they consume. The project will look at the food needs in our community, as well as what’s available. It also will include a survey about how much fish and game is used in Sitka, as well as how many people gather seaweed and berries or raise food in gardens.

The community food assessment recognizes that everybody in Sitka has access to affordable, quality food from stable food systems. The group meets on the second Wednesday each month, and the next meeting is from 5:30-7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 13, at the Sitka Sound Science Center.

For more information, contact Renae Mathson at 966-8797 or renae.mathson@searhc.org, or contact Andrianna Natsoulas at 747-3477 or anatsoulas@thealaskatrust.org. Sitka residents can ask to join the Google Groups e-mail list for the project to keep up to date with what’s happening.

• Sitka community food assessment project to hold kick-off meeting on Monday, Oct. 29

At the 2012 Sitka Health Summit, “Developing a Community Food Assessment for a Food Resilient Sitka” was selected as one of the top three goals for 2012-2013. All members of the public who are interested in this initiative are cordially invited to a kick-off gathering from 5-7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 29, in Room 108 at the Rasmuson Building located on the Sheldon Jackson campus.

Are you concerned about where your food comes from and how it gets to Sitka? Have you ever wondered what happens if the barge doesn’t arrive? Are you worried about rising food prices and do you worry about the future of Sitka’s food needs? What percentage of Sitka’s food is locally harvested? Do you feel the fish and game food resources you harvest are adequately protected?

Those and other questions will be asked as part of the community food assessment. All members of Sitka’s community have a need for and a right to healthy, stable, affordable food. We are interested in finding community groups and individuals who can help us in the planning stages of this assessment.

Snacks and refreshments will be provided. For more information, contact Renae Mathson at 966-8797 or renae.mathson@searhc.org.