• New ‘Make It Local’ cookbook highlights Alaska recipes for kids

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There has been a renaissance of local food in Alaska in recent years, but sometimes it’s difficult to get the kids to eat meals sourced with food from Alaska.

A new cookbook, “Make It Local: Recipes For Alaska’s Children,” produced by the Alaska Child Nutrition Programs, is full of kid-friendly recipes from around the state. The 111-page cookbook can be downloaded free online, or you can order a printed copy (see info at the bottom of the story). The cookbook is a joint project of the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, and the Farm to School Program. It is funded by a grant from USDA Team Nutrition.

The cookbook features a variety of recipes, such as reindeer ratatouille, baked halibut, and teriyaki salmon Caesar salad. It also includes portion sizes and nutrition info that meets the strict USDA requirements for school lunch programs. All of the recipes have been sampled by kids from around the state.

Unfortunately, the cookbook didn’t become available until after the state’s Nutritional Alaskan Foods in Schools program was cut from the budget. That program helped school districts purchase local foods for their students, and also helped Alaska farmers and fishermen meet expenses.

Tanya Dube, the kitchen manager for the Bristol Bay Borough School District, told Dillingham radio station KDLG the cuts made it difficult for small school districts to keep buying local foods. She said she sent a letter to Gov. Bill Walker asking him to return the Nutritional Alaskan Foods in Schools program to the 2017 budget.

“Here in Naknek, or up on the North Slope, or in the Southwest Region School District, we can’t really dedicate money to pay $3.99 a pound for Alaska carrots when we can get carrots grown way far away for $1.00 a pound,” Dube said. “So, losing those funds was a big hit for a lot of districts, but I think rural districts took the biggest hit.”

With deeper budget cuts on their way, Dube is not optimistic about that request, but she says she has to try.

“Asking for money is kind of an exercise in futility, but I feel like if we don’t ask, they’re gonna forget,” Dube said. “They’re gonna forget that there’s not only school children that benefit from having these products, but it benefits growers and producers. It benefits Alaska businesses, because they can plant more barley, or raise more cattle or pigs. It really benefits the whole food supply chain.”

This cookbook is available for online downloads at https://education.alaska.gov/tls/cnp/cookbook/Make_It_Local.pdf.  If you are interested in a printed copy, please contact Jan Mays at jan.mays@alaska.gov or 907-465-8712.

• Registration opens for Southeast Alaska Farm and Fish to School Conference on April 2-3 in Juneau

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Registration has begun for the inaugural Southeast Alaska Farm and Fish to Schools Conference, which takes place April 2-3 at Centennial Hall in Juneau.

This event will be the first regional opportunity focused on building connections between Alaska’s school systems and local food entrepreneurs. Anyone interested in bringing more local foods into our school system is invited to collaborate and connect with regional experts to strengthen fish and farm to school programming across the state.

Southeast Conference, the regional economic development organization, is coordinating the conference in conjunction with the newly formed Sustainable Southeast Partnership, a diverse network of organizations working together on community sustainability in Southeast Alaska.

Farm&Fish-logo-on-photos Cropped“Often we find that the barriers to achieving access to local, healthy foods can be overcome if we work together as a region to make this initiative a priority,” said Alana Peterson, program director of the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, Haa Aani, Community Development Fund Inc. “By bringing all the key players together for a conference we are hoping to achieve just that.”

Fish and farm to school programming offers significant economic, environmental cultural and nutritional opportunities to our rural communities and region.

“Schools in southeast received more than $500,000 last year to buy Alaskan produced foods through the Nutritional Alaska Foods to Schools grant program.” said Shelly Wright, Executive Director of Southeast Conference. “However, schools are often limited by what they can procure. There are untapped opportunities for, farmers, fishermen and small business in our region. We are eager to break down barriers and grow the opportunities for everyone.”

Online registration and more detailed conference information is available at http://www.seconference.org/southeast-farm-and-fish-schools-conference. Register before Feb. 28 to be eligible for a travel stipend. For more information, contact Lia Heifetz at growsoutheast@gmail.com.