• Three community wellness projects receive MAPP Tier 2 grant funding from SEARHC

Three Sitka community wellness projects will each receive $10,000 in funding through the MAPP (Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships) Tier 2 grants from the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC).

SEARHC-logo-rgb-150-web“Fostering health and wellness in a community is complex and multifaceted,” SEARHC Health Educator Lauren Hughey said. “We are pleased to support these three projects with MAPP Teir 2 funding because while each project has a different approach. All will make Sitka a healthier place to live.”

Earlier this year, the Sitka Health Summit collected MAPP data about community health issues in Sitka, identifying healthy weight as a key focus area. In order to help more Sitkans achieve a healthy weight, SEARHC and the Sitka Health Summit requested project proposals that addressed this key area using the identified strategies that also address the health status of Alaska Native people.

Projects must use one of these strategies and plan an intervention based on evidence-based policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) changes. PSE changes will increase access to and use of traditional and other healthy foods or increase health literacy by making them more readily available at home, work, and in the community. PSE changes are long term changes and reach a large proportion of the population. PSE changes can occur in the community, tribal organizations, schools, healthcare systems, childcare facilities, worksites, or in families.

Here are brief descriptions about the three projects to receive MAPP Tier 2 grant funding:

  • Sitka Seedling Farms (project info provided by Matthew Jackson) — Sitka Seedling Farms is an initiative to meet Sitka’s food system needs in a thought-out, comprehensive way. Many food-related initiatives have been proposed over the last several years, but most have stalled for lack of space. Sitka Seedling Farms, which is a finalist in the Paths to Prosperity economic development contest for Southeast Alaska, will solve this problem by exploring innovative land relationships with major landowners in our community to develop the resources Sitka’s food system needs to thrive, such as production space for food entrepreneurs, community greenhouses, food storage and processing facilities and more. Sitka Seedling Farms is currently in the land exploration phase. Please contact Matthew Jackson with questions or comments at 907-821-1412.
  • Sitka Community Playground (project info provided by Lynne Brandon) — The grant award is to assist with the Sitka Community Playground Project Phase II, the design process. The design will help with the subsequent fundraising effort. The Phase III goal is to construct the new playground during the summer of 2017. Phase I was establishing a steering committee with volunteers, getting Assembly approval for the playground location at Crescent Harbor Park playground incorporating one of the three tennis courts, creating a funding plan and a timeline with tasks. The Sitka Community Playground project also is a 2015 Sitka Health Summit community wellness project.
  • Hames Center Elder Connect project (project info provided by Caitlin Blaisdell) — The Hames Center‘s Tier 2 grant will be used to create delegated senior hours for everyone older than age 65 and their caregivers to use our gym floor free of cost. These hours will incorporate group fitness activities, serve as an indoor walking space, create senior service information dissemination, and spark active, social groups for our growing senior demographic. Through bringing seniors together at the Hames Center with transportation assistance, we aim to remove many of the obstacles, such as social isolation, transportation limitations, and fixed income restrictions, that seniors may face in maintaining their physical and mental well-being all year round. The Hames Center Elder Connect project also is a 2015 Sitka Health Summit community wellness project.

Selected projects are awarded up to $10,000 for the project period of Nov. 1, 2015, through Oct. 31, 2016. For more information about the MAPP Tier 2 grant program, please contact Lauren Hughey at 966-8797 or lauren.hughey@searhc.org.


• Hoonah Healing Community Garden helps Hoonah improve health and prevent diabetes

End of May 114

Terrence McCrobie builds three Hoonah Healing Community Garden plots for the Hoonah Senior Center in May 2015. (Photo by Kathy McCrobie)

By Kathy McCrobie
SEARHC Traditional Foods Project Assistant

Creating the Hoonah Healing Community Garden was Bob Starbard’s idea. He is the Hoonah Indian Association‘s (HIA) Tribal Administrator. He worked with Bob Christensen from Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC), and by 2012 our first plots had been built.

I was hired by SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) as the Traditional Foods Project Assistant. When I took over for the 2013 growing season, I really had no gardening experience. I posted notices for the community to let them know the garden was available. We had 22 plots available for growing, and that summer half were in production.

Many community members made important contributions; our gravel business donated two large loads of fine sand and the time and skills shared made building the garden easier. Soon there was a dirt sifter to screen out the many rocks in the local dirt and heavy equipment leveled the ground. The Southeast Soil and Water Conservation District in Juneau sold us 14 berry plants at a discounted price. A community member donated 30 strawberry plants. Our space was soon coming together.

Most of our gardeners have prior gardening experience. Some used their own soil. Last year the zucchini, broccoli, potatoes, beets, bush beans and snap peas did well. The biggest challenge came from the ravens. After putting in starts, out of their curiosity, they would fly down when everyone left and pull them up.

We ask that our gardeners not use fish in their compost so the bears won’t come by to check us out and so far the deer have left the plots alone. Lia Heifetz from the Sustainable Southeast Partnership was a big help with our garden last year; she acquired some fence to protect our plots from critters. We hope to get the fence up this year. Lia also came to the William and Mary Johnson Youth Center to teach the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hoonah about composting with her worm bin and then we gathered seaweed for the garden.

For 2015 we are off to a great start with six returning and four new gardeners. Community members donated 20 raspberry plants and 20 gooseberry plants. Through the program, I purchased and planted a Nadine plum tree and a Terry Berry apple tree. My husband volunteers at the Hoonah Senior Center and is helping me with the traditional foods plot, as well as planting three plots for the seniors.

I just received an email from Lauren Hughey, a Community Health Educator based out of SEARHC Sitka. What exciting news! They just received a diabetes grant carry-forward. With the approval of this grant, Hoonah will receive $1,650 with the main goal of reducing the financial barriers to gardening for American Indian/Alaska Native diabetic patients. This grant will pay for plot fees and gardening supplies in the community garden: soil, seeds, raised-bed repair supplies, shovels, pots, gloves, buckets, and cold frames.

If you are ever in Hoonah please stop by to see us.   The garden is in town next to the Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Sharing about the Hoonah Healing Community Garden lets our and other communities be informed that food security starts with us. Also that it really does work! For additional information, feel free to contact me at kathymc@searhc.org.

A slideshow of Hoonah community garden photos from former Sitka Local Foods Network board member Cathy Lieser is posted below.

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