• Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins of Sitka introduces bill to allow donations of fish and game to nonprofit meal programs

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Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D-Sitka) is the prime sponsor of a tripartisan bill that will allow nonprofit meal programs — such as those found at schools, hospitals and senior centers — to serve donated fish and game from sport and subsistence harvesters.

The bill, HB 179, is co-sponsored by seven other legislators — four Republicans (Cathy Muñoz of Juneau, Charisse Millett of Anchorage, Louise Stutes of Kodiak and Tammie Wilson of North Pole), two Democrats (Neal Foster of Nome and Sam Kito III of Juneau), and an Independent (Dan Ortiz of Ketchikan). The was introduced on April 1 and already has hearings set for next week in the resources (Monday, April 6) and fisheries (Tuesday, April 7) committees. If those committees pass the bill, it could go before the House floor for a vote as early as late next week.

“Because of that broad support, this bill is in not just the fast lane, but in the Autobahn-style fast lane,” Kreiss-Tomkins told the Daily Sitka Sentinel. “This bill could go from being introduced to a vote on the floor in eight or nine days.”

Kreiss-Tomkins said the bill was inspired in part by Sitka’s Fish to Schools program, which allows commercial fishermen to donate locally caught seafood to local schools so it can be served in student lunches. However, many parts of the state don’t have commercial fisheries, and Alaska law currently bars food service organizations funded by state or federal meal programs from serving subsistence- and sport-harvested fish and game, even if it is donated.

In the sponsor statement for the bill, Kreiss-Tomkins writes:

Hunting and fishing is at the heart of our shared heritage as Alaskans. Every Alaskan looks forward to the season he or she can again fill the freezer with salmon, moose, caribou, seal, or berries. Alaskans happily share this food with family, children, and elders.

This sharing is not possible in our public institutions, however. Well-meaning state laws intended to prevent the commercialization of wild game have also largely prevented children in schools and elders in hospitals and senior centers from eating the traditional Alaska foods that we treasure. As a result, even though we are surrounded by some of the best food in the world, our children eat corndogs rather than caribou at school lunch; our elders are served spaghetti rather than seal.

This action follows a 2013 amendment U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) included in an agriculture bill that removed barriers that previously prohibited American Indians and Alaska Natives from serving traditional foods in hospitals, elder care facilities and schools. The amendment authorized the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow for the donation and serving of traditional foods, which meet specific safety standards, in public facilities that primarily serve American Indians and Alaska Natives.

In his sponsor statement, Kreiss-Tomkins writes:

The bill also ensures traditional wild foods donated to and served by food service programs are safe to eat. The Department of Environmental Conservation already has regulations in place providing for the safe handling and processing of many traditional wild foods. HB 179 affirms the Department’s authority to oversee the safety of these foods.

HB 179 will nourish Alaska’s children and elders, both physically and spiritually. It will limit the amount of expensive and unhealthy processed food shipped to communities that have incredible food available just a short boat or snowmachine ride away. Children will develop an appreciation where their food comes from and elders will be able to keep eating the foods they love.

• HB 179 — Traditional Foods Bill

• HB 179 — Traditional Foods Bill Sponsor Statement

• ADF&G offers basic hunter education course July 22-23 in Sitka

A Sitka black-tailed deer feeds on one of the barrier islands near Sitka

A Sitka black-tailed deer feeds on one of the barrier islands near Sitka

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is offering a two-day basic hunter education class July 22-23 in Sitka. The class takes place from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, July 22, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 23, at the Sitka Sportsman’s Association building toward the end of Halibut Point Road (by the shooting range next to the ferry terminal).

To register, students must purchase a $10 study packet that is available at the Sitka ADF&G office, 304 Lake St., Suite 103. The packet workbook must be completed before the start of the first class. The course is open to anyone, but it is designed for students ages 10 and older. A minimum of six students is needed for the class to take place.

For packet workbooks and additional information, contact the Sitka office of ADF&G at 747-5449. More information about the basic hunter education class also is available online at this link.

This class is required before hunters are allowed to get permits for some of Alaska’s game management areas. Successful completion of the class earns the hunter a certificate recognized by all other states, Canadian provinces and territories, and in Mexico.

• ADF&G offers basic hunter education course this weekend in Sitka

A Sitka black-tailed deer feeds on one of the barrier islands near Sitka

A Sitka black-tailed deer feeds on one of the barrier islands near Sitka

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is offering a two-day basic hunter education class this weekend in Sitka. The class takes place from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, July 9, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 10.

To register, students must purchase a $10 study packet that is available at the Sitka ADF&G office, 304 Lake St., Suite 103. The packet workbook must be completed before the start of the first class. The course is open to anyone, but it is designed for students ages 10 and older. A minimum of six students is needed for the class to take place.

For packet workbooks and additional information, contact the Sitka office of ADF&G at 747-5449. More information about the basic hunter education class also is available online at this link.

This class is required before hunters are allowed to get permits for some of Alaska’s game management areas. Successful completion of the class earns the hunter a certificate recognized by all other states, Canadian provinces and territories, and in Mexico.

• Alaska Local Food Film Festival featured on Alaska Public Radio Network and other local food news

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The Alaska Public Radio Network’s Alaska News Nightly show on Friday night had a feature story about the inaugural Alaska Local Food Film Festival that runs Oct. 2-8 at Anchorage’s Beartooth Theatrepub and Grill. The story included discussion about the movie “Eating Alaska” by Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein, which will be shown on Sunday and feature a post-movie discussion with Ellen. The feature story link has streaming audio. Here’s a link to more information about the film festival.

Earlier this week, former Fairbanks Daily News-Miner editor Sam Bishop wrote an article about hunting and gathering in the season of the moose hunt. While centered on a September moose hunt Sam took with his parents, the story discusses the role of local foods and how people make their food choices.

Also in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner this week was a letter to the editor from Barry Brown about how to properly take care of the meat after a successful hunt.

Anchorage Daily News garden columnist Jeff Lowenfels writes a column about getting the garden ready for a long winter’s nap.

Finally, an article from a paper in Ontario, Canada — the Peterborough Examiner — about “Yes, they garden in Alaska.” The article is by Joan Harding, a master gardener for Peterborough Gardens, who took a trip through Southeast Alaska where she visited gardens along the way.

• ADF&G hunter education safety courses offered in Sitka

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is offering an Online Basic Hunter Education Field Day and a Basic Hunter Education class this month in Sitka.

The Online Basic Hunter Education Field Day will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19. This field day course is only for students who already have successfully completed the electronic portion of the Online Basic Hunter Education class. Upon passing the online exam, students will receive a field day qualifier certificate, which grants admission to the field day. Students must have their field day qualifier number before registering for the field day. Register online at http://www.hunt.alaska.gov (click the “Hunter Education/Shooting” link at the bottom-right corner of the grid listing services). Detailed information about each course can be found on the Hunter Education/Shooting link.

The three-day Basic Hunter Education class will run from 6-8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 24-25, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 26. To register, students must purchase a $10 study packet available at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office in Sitka. The packet workbook must be completed prior to the start of class.

Classes will be held at the Sitka Sportsman’s Association building located at 5211 Halibut Point Road. For additional information, please contact the Sitka office for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game at 747-5449.