• Alaska Food Resource Working Group to hold inaugural meeting Nov. 4 in Anchorage

(The following is a press release from the Alaska Food Policy Council. Sitka Local Foods Network Board President Lisa Sadleir-Hart is a member of the Alaska Food Policy Council’s governing board.)

Alaska Food Resource Working Group to hold inaugural meeting in Anchorage

Statewide call-to-action on food resource development

AlaskaFoodPolicyCouncilLogoANCHORAGE, Alaska (Oct. 31) – Alaskans spend approximately $2.5 billion dollars on food each year, but only an estimated 5 percent of the food Alaskans buy is produced locally. The Alaska Food Resource Working Group (AFRWG) is tasked with changing that statistic and building a strong, resilient statewide food economy. The AFRWG will hold its inaugural meeting from 10 a.m. until noon on Monday, Nov. 4, in Room 602 of the Robert B. Atwood Building, located at 550 West 7th Avenue in Anchorage.

On June 28, 2013, Gov. Sean Parnell signed legislation calling for the creation of the Alaska Food Resource Working Group (AFRWG) under Administrative Order 265, with the goal of building Alaska’s food economy. As a response to House Concurrent Resolution 1, sponsored by Rep. Bill Stoltze, the Governor signed the administrative order to establish a state agency work group focused on recommending policies and measures to increase the purchase and consumption of local wild seafood and farm products.

The AFRWG will be composed of eight (8) state agency commissioners or designees responsible for the development, oversight, and marketing of locally grown and harvested foods. Increasing collaboration between state and local agencies, the University of Alaska, federal agencies, regional corporations, nonprofit organizations, and the Alaska Food Policy Council (AFPC). Danny Consenstein, Alaska Food Policy Council Governing Board Member, will serve as a representative on behalf of the AFPC.

“[AO 265] recognizes the importance to all Alaskans of developing a secure food system that can provide jobs, support healthy communities, and increase food security to feed the hungry and insulate us from potential disruptions along the food supply chain,” said Lisa Sadleir-Hart (Sitka), Governing Board Member of the Alaska Food Policy Council.

The Alaska Food Policy Council (AFPC) is an independent statewide organization with the vision of a healthy, secure food system that feeds all Alaskans. Over 150 representatives from federal and state agencies, tribal entities, university programs, farmers, fisheries, food systems businesses, and health and hunger agencies serve on the AFPC to determine food policy opportunities to ensure a healthy, self-reliant, and prosperous Alaskan food system. A member of the AFPC Governing Board will serve on the AFRWG to represent the broader group of stakeholders on the Alaska Food Policy Council.

“The Alaska Food Policy Council really believes that the group created by this resolution will ultimately help to both bring Alaska’s rich food resources to market and address issues of access to healthy, nutritious, adequate supplies of food for all Alaskans,” declared Mary Sullivan of the Food Bank of Alaska and Alaska Food Policy Council Legislative Workgroup Chair.

By instituting programs and adopting regulations supporting a vibrant food economy in Alaska, the Alaska State Legislature and the Governor are facilitating momentous steps toward a food secure state. HCR1 and Administrative Order 265 demonstrate the commitment of Alaska’s government to the health, safety, welfare, and overall economic and social well-being of Alaska residents.

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The Alaska Food Policy Council is an independent, statewide organization with a vision for a food secure, healthy Alaska. For more information about the Alaska Food Policy Council, please contact Danny Consenstein by phone at (907) 761-7738 or by email at daniel.consenstein@ak.usda.gov.

• Gov. Parnell signs executive order creating the Alaska Food Resource Working Group

AlaskaFoodPolicyCouncilLogoThe following is a note sent to members of the Alaska Food Policy Council listserv by Diane Peck, MPH, RD, a public health nutritionist with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Obesity Prevention and Control Program. Diane also is one of the lead contacts for the Alaska Food Policy Council.

Last Friday (June 28, 2013), at the Palmer Farmers Market, Gov. Sean Parnell signed Administrative Order No. 265 (http://gov.state.ak.us/admin-orders/265.html) to establish the Alaska Food Resource Working Group (AFRWG) to recommend policies and measures to increase the purchase and consumption of local wild seafood and farm products. This is a bit different than HCR 01. The AFRWG is composed of eight state agency commissioners or their designee. “The AFRWG shall collaborate with the Alaska Food Policy Council . . . and shall invite a member of the AFPC governing board to represent the AFPC at scheduled meetings.”

The goals of the group are:

  • Develop a mission statement that promotes increased use of locally grown and harvested foods within state and local agencies, institutions, and schools;
  • Identify factors that might discourage or prevent locally harvested and produced food from being purchased by federal, state and local agencies, institutions, and schools;
  • Review existing or proposed programs, policies, statutes, and regulations that impact the state’s food system and recommend to policymakers methods to improve coordination and implementation;
  • Identify research needed to support and encourage increased consumption and production of local foods within the state; and
  • Engage with the public to seek additional input on ways to promote the above-listed goals.

Lots of legislators and several commissioners were at the signing.  The governor said this elevates the group to “sub-cabinet” status.

To learn more about the Alaska Food Policy Council, go to its website or like its Facebook page. Sitka Local Foods Network board president Lisa Sadleir-Hart represents Sitka on the Alaska Food Policy Council.

• Alaska Food Policy Council press release about the executive order

• Sitka Tribe of Alaska submits editorial on protecting Pacific herring as a keystone forage fish

HerringBranches

(The following editorial about protecting forage fish, such as Pacific herring, was submitted to local media on April 11 by Sitka Tribe of Alaska tribal chairman Michael Baines.)

State of Alaska Denies Herring Forage Fish Status

2006 Herring collection 007Currently Pacific herring are acknowledged as a keystone forage fish species that is responsible for maintaining the health of the marine ecosystem in the waters of California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia (BC).  As you cross the maritime boundary between BC and Alaska herring lose their forage fish status and become just another commercially harvested finfish.  At a recent Board of Fish meeting in Anchorage, the Board heard testimony from fishery managers, the herring industry and the public on a proposal that would have acknowledged herring as a forage fish by adding them to the State’s Forage Fish Management Plan (FFMP).

The FFMP became effective in 1999 and was intended to prevent the development of new fisheries on forage fish while allowing existing commercial forage fisheries to continue.  The Plan states that forage fish perform a critical role in the marine ecosystem by transferring energy from primary (zooplankton) and secondary (phytoplankton) producers to upper trophic level shellfish, finfish, marine mammals and sea birds.  The Plan also recognizes that, “abundant populations of forage fish are necessary to sustain healthy populations of commercially important species of salmon, groundfish, halibut, and shellfish.” 

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game commented that adding herring the FFMP would not affect the way it currently manages herring fisheries in the State. When asked by the Board if herring met the definition and fulfilled the role of a forage fish as described in the Plan, the ADF&G Southeast Regional Commercial Fisheries Coordinator responded that he felt they did.

Supporters of the plan stressed that herring are an ecological keystone species that are recognized around the world as a forage fish.  The Federal government holds herring to a higher standard that other forage fish by having no directed fisheries on herring in federal waters and by listing them as a prohibited species that is not allowed to be retained as by-catch.

Herring industry representatives testified that they felt herring stocks are healthy, well managed and did not need to be acknowledged as a forage fish.  Concerns were also expressed that listing herring as a forage fish would lead to changes in the way herring are managed.  This would have required the State to look at herring in a different light.  It may have paved the way for more conservative forage fish friendly management plans to be brought forth through the Board of Fisheries process in the future.

Unfortunately for Alaskans, this proposal was voted down on a 4-3 vote.  Three of the opposing Board members are commercial fishermen or have ties to the commercial fishing industry.  These Board members reiterated comments made by the industry that herring stocks are healthy, well managed and did not need to be listed in the plan.

The arguments put forth by the industry representatives and members of the Board in opposition to the proposal were not germane to the issue of adding herring to the FFMP.  The health of a population has nothing to do with its definition as a forage fish.  If this were the case the Lynn Canal and Prince William Sound herring stocks would be considered forage fish while the apparently healthy Togiak stock would not have the same status.  Likewise, if acknowledging herring as a forage fish by adding them to the FFMP eventually changes the way stocks are managed, it should tell us something about their current management.

The acknowledgement of herring as a forage fish would have allowed managers to look at herring in a different light and might have paved the way for more conservative forage fish friendly management plans to be brought forth through the Board of Fisheries process in the future.  Refusal by the State of Alaska to acknowledge herring as a forage fish sends a message to the world about Alaska’s biased Board of Fish process and the State’s priorities when it comes to managing its marine resources.  Alaska boasts having the best managed fisheries in the world, but that reputation is now tarnished.  It’s a sad day for Alaskans when greed and political influence win out over the common good of all who live in this great State.

If you feel the Board of Fisheries erred in their decision to deny herring forage fish status, you are encouraged to contact Alaska Governor Sean Parnell and the Board of Fisheries and request that the State reconsider adding herring to the State’s FFMP.  This is an Alaskan resource that needs to be managed for the benefit of all Alaskans.

(Sent to)

Governor Sean Parnell, P.O. Box 110001, Juneau, AK 99811-0001, Phone (907) 465-3500, governor@alaska.gov

and

Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Board of Fisheries, P.O. Box 115526, 1255 W. 8th Street, Juneau, AK 99811-5526

 

• 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:

EATING ALASKA: ART AND HEALTH!
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