• Sitka Health Summit presents seed money check to Community Food Assessment for a Food Resilient Sitka project

FOOD ASSESSMENT DOUGH: From left, Sitka Health Summit Steering Committee members Ellen Daly, Elisabeth Crane and Penny Lehmann present a check for project seed money to representatives from the Community Food Assessment for a Food Resilient Sitka community wellness project, Renae Mathson (fourth from left), Sabrina Cimerol, Garrett Bauer and Courtney Bobsin.

FOOD ASSESSMENT DOUGH: From left, Sitka Health Summit Steering Committee members Ellen Daly, Elisabeth Crane and Penny Lehmann present a check for project seed money to representatives from the Community Food Assessment for a Food Resilient Sitka community wellness project, Renae Mathson (fourth from left), Sabrina Cimerol, Garrett Bauer and Courtney Bobsin.

Representatives from the Sitka Health Summit recently presented a check for seed money to the Community Food Assessment for a Food Resilient Sitka project. The project is one of three community wellness projects that came out of the 2012 Sitka Health Summit in October, and the food assessment will help Sitka improve its food security.

The food assessment will take various forms, from polling local grocery stores and shipping companies to try and gauge how much food comes into the community to developing a survey for community members and families about how much food they consume. The project will look at the food needs in our community, as well as what’s available. It also will include a survey about how much fish and game is used in Sitka, as well as how many people gather seaweed and berries or raise food in gardens.

The community food assessment recognizes that everybody in Sitka has access to affordable, quality food from stable food systems. The group meets on the second Wednesday each month, and the next meeting is from 5:30-7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 13, at the Sitka Sound Science Center.

For more information, contact Renae Mathson at 966-8797 or renae.mathson@searhc.org, or contact Andrianna Natsoulas at 747-3477 or anatsoulas@thealaskatrust.org. Sitka residents can ask to join the Google Groups e-mail list for the project to keep up to date with what’s happening.

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• Sitka community food assessment project to hold kick-off meeting on Monday, Oct. 29

At the 2012 Sitka Health Summit, “Developing a Community Food Assessment for a Food Resilient Sitka” was selected as one of the top three goals for 2012-2013. All members of the public who are interested in this initiative are cordially invited to a kick-off gathering from 5-7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 29, in Room 108 at the Rasmuson Building located on the Sheldon Jackson campus.

Are you concerned about where your food comes from and how it gets to Sitka? Have you ever wondered what happens if the barge doesn’t arrive? Are you worried about rising food prices and do you worry about the future of Sitka’s food needs? What percentage of Sitka’s food is locally harvested? Do you feel the fish and game food resources you harvest are adequately protected?

Those and other questions will be asked as part of the community food assessment. All members of Sitka’s community have a need for and a right to healthy, stable, affordable food. We are interested in finding community groups and individuals who can help us in the planning stages of this assessment.

Snacks and refreshments will be provided. For more information, contact Renae Mathson at 966-8797 or renae.mathson@searhc.org.

• Sitka residents pick three Sitka Health Summit wellness projects for 2012-13; including a community food assessment

Sitka residents gather for a group photo during the Sitka Health Summit planning day on Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, at Sweetland Hall on the Sheldon Jackson Campus.

Sitka residents gather for a group photo during the Sitka Health Summit planning day on Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, at Sweetland Hall on the Sheldon Jackson Campus.

Sitka residents want to revitalize the downtown core area, perform a community food assessment for food resiliency, and apply for a Walk Friendly Community award to show how walkable Sitka is as a community.

Those were the three community health priorities Sitka residents chose to work on this next year when they met during the Sitka Health Summit’s community planning meeting on Friday, Oct. 12, at Sweetland Hall on the Sheldon Jackson Campus. Sitka residents chose these three projects out of dozens of brain-stormed ideas. Each project will receive assistance with facilitation and $750 of seed money from the summit’s Health Initiatives Fund to start working on meeting the health goals.

The groups working on each project are setting up their first meetings and getting their contact lists together, and Sitka residents who want to participate are welcome to contact the interim group leaders (through the group’s first meetings, group leaders may change after the first meetings) listed below to find out more information.

  • Sitka downtown revitalization project, Angela McGraw, 747-1737, angelam@sitkahospital.org, first meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 30, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.
  • Sitka community food assessment, Renae Mathson, 966-8797, renae.mathson@searhc.org, first meeting at 5 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 29, in Room 108 at Rasmuson Hall on the Sheldon Jackson Campus.
  • Walk Friendly Community, Charles Bingham, 738-8875, charleswbingham3@gmail.com, first meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 7, at Swan Lake Senior Center.
Sitka Mayor Mim McConnell speaks to Sitka residents at the Sitka Health Summit planning day on Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, at Sweetland Hall on the Sheldon Jackson Campus.

Sitka Mayor Mim McConnell speaks to Sitka residents at the Sitka Health Summit planning day on Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, at Sweetland Hall on the Sheldon Jackson Campus.

The sixth annual Sitka Health Summit took place on Saturday, Oct. 6; Monday, Oct. 8; Wednesday, Oct. 10; and Friday, Oct. 12, at various locations around Sitka. In addition to Friday’s community planning meeting, the Sitka Health Summit opened the Sitka Community Health Fair and Neighborhood Block Party on Saturday at Sweetland Hall. It also featured a lunch-and-learn on Monday at Kettleson Memorial Library where Don Lehmann, MD, discussed “Exercise as Medicine;” and it featured the Sitka Health Summit Community Wellness Champion Awards Celebration on Wednesday night at the Sheet’ká Kwáan Naa Kahidi.

The Sitka Health Summit is brought to you by Sitka Community Hospital, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), Alaska Communications and the University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus. Additional financial help and in-kind donations were provided by the City and Borough of Sitka, Guardian Flight Inc., Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska, Scott Insurance Services, Shee Atiká Inc., AC Value Center/Lakeside, Sitka Vision Clinic, Wells Fargo, White’s Inc. (Harry Race Pharmacy, White’s Pharmacy, Seasons), Spenard Builders Supply, Don and Penny Lehmann, Alaska Health Fair Inc., and the State of Alaska Division of Public Health Nursing. The Sitka Health Summit’s vision is “to serve our great state as a model for community wellness by creating a healthy community where all Sitkans strive for and enjoy a high quality of life.”

For more information about the Sitka Health Summit, call Doug Osborne at 966-8734 or Alyssa Sexton at 747-0388, or go to our website at http://www.sitkahealthsummit.com/.

• Alaska chef Robert Kinneen creates webinar series about cooking with traditional foods

Local food from Sitka is featured prominently in the new Fresh49.com webisode series about using traditional foods created by Alaska chef Robert Kinneen of Anchorage and Dr. Gary Ferguson, ND, the director of the Wellness and Prevention program at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC).

Guest chef Robert Kinneen of Anchorage demonstrates a dish using scallops during the first Sitka Seafood Festival in 2010.

Guest chef Robert Kinneen of Anchorage demonstrates a dish using scallops during the first Sitka Seafood Festival in 2010.

The first webisodes in the series are about the Store Outside Your Door, and they feature traditional foods Kinneen gathered around Sitka with Steve Johnson, a Tlingít elder-in-training from Sitka. Some of the webisodes featuring Sitka include a foraged salad, Alaskan fresh rolls, venison skewers and rockfish fumet. There is a Store Outside Your Door page on Facebook, as well as a channel on YouTubewhere people can find the webisodes.

Even though he currently lives and works in Anchorage, Kinneen is no stranger to Southeast Alaska. He is Tlingít and was born in Petersburg. Kinneen is a graduate of the Culinary School of America and has been a chef at several of Anchorage’s top restaurants over the years. He also has been a guest chef at the first two Sitka Seafood Festivals.

Dr. Ferguson, who is Aleut originally from Sand Point, is a Doctor of Naturopathy who earned his degree from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine. He has a special interest in diabetes treatment and prevention, which is one of the reasons Dr. Ferguson and Kinneen got together to do the series. Research has shown that traditional diets can play a big role in diabetes prevention.

In the first webisodes, they also worked with health educator Renae Mathson of Sitka (Tlingít), who works with the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Diabetes and Health Promotion programs, and registered dietitian Desirée Simeon (Tlingít/Haida), who works with ANTHC. They currently are filming webisodes from other parts of Alaska, featuring traditional foods from those areas.

• Wealth of resources available to learn about traditional foods

A selection of traditional plant books that are in popular use in Southeast Alaska

A selection of traditional plant books that are in popular use in Southeast Alaska

Living in Southeast Alaska, Sitka residents are exposed to a wealth of traditional foods that grow in our forests or can be found along our beaches. But many Sitka residents aren’t familiar with which plants are safe to eat, and which plants they should avoid. They also aren’t familiar with when are the prime times to gather certain plants.

In recent years, several books have been published to help teach people more about traditional plants and how they can be used. There also have been other groups, such as the Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s Kayaaní Commission, the Sealaska Heritage Institute and the Alaska Native Knowledge Network, that have posted traditional plant information online, including complete curriculum outlines for teachers to use in their classrooms.

Some of the more popular books used in Sitka (many of these can be found at Old Harbor Books) include:

  • Wild Edible & Medicinal Plants: Alaska, Canada & Pacific Northwest Rainforest: An Introductory Pocket Trail Guide (Volumes 1 and 2) by Carol R. Biggs
  • Wild Edible and Poisonous Plants of Alaska by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service (FNH-00028)
  • Collecting and Using Alaska’s Wild Berries and Other Wild Products by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service (FNH-00120)

In addition to these books, the Sealaska Heritage Institute has created curriculum resources using the Tlingít and Haida languages that are built around using traditional foods (links on language names go to Grades K-2 versions, but upper-lever courses available on main curriculum link). Examples of the Tlingít and Haida Grade K-2 courses for Plants are linked below as PDF documents, but there also are separate courses for beach greens, berries, cedar trees, hemlock trees, spruce trees, herring, hooligan, salmon, sea mammals, as well as for other cultural knowledge such as canoes, totem poles and Elizabeth Peratrovich.

The Alaska Native Knowledge Network also some curriculum resources posted online for Tlingít, Haida and Tsimshian culture, including some by Sitka teacher Pauline Duncan. The Alaska Native Plant Society has some information on traditional plant use, but the group is geared more toward the Anchorage area. The Alaska Natural History Program publishes an online Alaska Rare Plant Field Guide. The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service has online and printed guides available on plant identification, berries and berry use, and even has online tutorials about how to home can jams and jellies.

On a related note, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Diabetes Program will be turning its focus to traditional living classes for 2011. The program will focus on traditional foods and activities to teach its Native patients and other community members how to prevent and manage their diabetes (the SEARHC Diabetes Program operates throughout Southeast Alaska, not just in Sitka). The SEARHC Diabetes Program is looking for resident experts in traditional living (fishing, hunting, gathering, preparation, storage, gardening, etc.) who can help teach these skills to others. The program also wants to learn what types of classes people want to see offered in their communities. For more information, contact SEARHC Health Educator Renae Mathson at 966-8797 or renae.mathson@searhc.org.

Sealaska Heritage Institute Tlingít plant curriculum (Grades K-2)

Sealaska Heritage Institute Haida plant curriculum (Grades K-2)

UAF Cooperative Extension Service Native Plants of Alaska page on devil’s club

Nellie’s Recipes: An ANTHC (Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium) Traditional Food Cookbook for Assisted Living Homes

Alaska Traditional Food Resources (list from Eat Smart Alaska program run by Alaska Division of Public Health)