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.

Celebrate food security in Alaska with two free movies on March 24 at Harrigan Centennial Hall

Food security can be a precarious thing in Alaska, where 90-95 percent of our food has to be shipped here from the Lower 48 or elsewhere. In honor of the third annual Alaska Food Security Awareness Week, join us for two short, free movies on the theme of “All About Alaska Grown” from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, March 24, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

The first movie, “Alaska Far Away,” is about an hour long and tells the story of the New Deal colonists who settled in the Matanuska and Susitna valleys to farm during the 1930s. The second movie, “Five Reasons To Choose Alaska Grown,” is about 30 minutes and features interviews with Alaska farmers about why they enjoy Alaska Grown produce.

The movies, which also are showing in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau during the week of March 13-17, are coordinated by the office of Rep. Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage), who has introduced several bills over the years to improve Alaska’s food security. The Sitka showing of the films is co-hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network and Sitka Public Library.

• Wanton waste of deer meat, a record high herring quota and other local foods stories in the news

Over the past couple of weeks, at least 10 Sitka black tail deer corpses have been found in Sitka with lots of edible meat still on the bone but the prime cuts missing. According to the Anchorage Daily News, state wildlife officials are searching for the hunters, and wanton waste charges may be coming for those involved. There were six deer found off Green Lake Road, then four deer were found near Harbor Mountain Road five days later.

The Sitka Local Foods Network encourages the responsible and sustainable harvesting of traditional subsistence foods, such as deer, but we must respect the resource and use the entire animal. Not only is leaving edible meat in the field wasteful, but the last couple of years have been down years for deer survival and the actions of these wasteful hunters may mean fewer hunting opportunities next year for hunters who need the deer to feed their families. Anyone with information about the cases is asked to call Alaska Wildlife Troopers at 747-3254 or, to remain anonymous, Wildlife Safeguard at 1-800-478-3377.

In other local foods news, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game established a record sac roe herring quota for the 2010 season, a quota of more than 18,000 tons (more than 4,000 tons higher than last year’s then-record quota). The commercial herring fleet is very happy with the higher quota, but KCAW-Raven Radio reports local subsistence gatherers worry that the record quota will harm their ability to gather herring eggs on hemlock branches, a popular subsistence and barter food for local Tlingít and Haida residents. They also worry two straight years of record quotas will hurt the resource, since herring also serves as a key forage food for salmon, halibut, whales, sea lions and other species in the region.

The Juneau Empire reported that the State of Alaska asked for an extension to reply to an inquiry on subsistence management from the federal government. The federal government took over some management of subsistence in Alaska more than a decade ago because state laws weren’t in compliance with the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), which calls for a rural preference on subsistence in times of shortage, and the federal government may be expanding its role in subsistence management.

The Anchorage Daily News reported on Alaska pork being ready for the freezer at A.D. Farms, and that pork will be sold at the indoor farmers market at Anchorage’s Northway Mall. The story included a wrap-up of other local foods available at the market, and it had a recipe for crock-pot cod.

Laine Welch’s Alaska fishing column was about how more local fish is appearing in school lunch menus.

The Anchorage Daily News Alaska Newsreader feature reported on several Arctic travelers getting trichinosis from eating undercooked bear meat. The National Post of Canada also had a story on travelers eating undercooked bear meat, while the New York Times had an article about how trichinosis is common in bear meat that isn’t cooked properly.

The Anchorage Daily News had an article about how Alaska’s rhubarb probably first came from Russia.

Miller-McCune magazine had an article about how Alaska’s complex salmon politics can serve as a model for sustainable fisheries elsewhere in the world.

The Alaska Public Radio Network reported on a woman from Aniak, Dee Matter, who has taken freezing her food to a new level. The story also was on APRN’s Alaska News Nightly show.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner had a feature article about Kotzebue hunter and trapper Ross Schafer and the “Eskimo” way of life.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner had an article about a conflict between farmers and hunters over the future of the Delta bison herd.

The Juneau Empire ran a story about glaciers providing an important food source.

Anchorage Daily News garden columnist Jeff Lowenfels wrote about magazine gifts for gardeners.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran an Associated Press article about Monsanto’s role in the business of agriculture, especially the way it squeezes out competitors in the seed industry.

Finally, the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences blog featured an article about a new study about food security challenges in Alaska.