Alaska Food Policy Council releases food system action plan

HOMER, Alaska (Sept. 12, 2022) — The Alaska Food Policy Council has released the results and food security action plan from a USDA Regional Food System Partnership program grant for Alaska received in 2020.

This two-year process involved local food system leaders in 13 regional nodes around the state, including one in Sitka hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network. The node leaders looked at their local and regional food systems, and how they connect with food systems in other parts of the state. The project also taught the node leaders how to develop and connect the people and companies within their local food systems to strengthen them.

Alaska has major food security issues, with an estimated 90-95 percent of all food coming to the state from somewhere else. One of the long-term goals of this project is to use the information gathered to create a 10-year statewide food security plan.

“This two-year project has engaged communities from around the state, bringing together Alaskans who care deeply about building a better food system,” Alaska Food Policy Council Executive Director Robbi Mixon said. “The resulting food security plan contains actionable ideas that can be implemented by communities in a way that makes sense for their own place-based needs and capacities.”

The three main objectives of this project are to improve the connection and collaboration of local and regional food systems around the state to improve Alaska’s food system; to identify food system assets, barriers, and capacities to help with the connection and collaboration; and to create a statewide food security plan that is informed by the regional nodes representing a variety of locations and stakeholder groups.

The next step is to apply for a USDA Rural Food System Partnership Implementation grant. This will allow state food system leaders to build on this groundwork and improve Alaska’s food security.

More information on the project and a link to the report can be found at https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/blog/2022/9/8/2022-regional-food-system-partnership-project-report-amp-food-security-action-plan-released

###

The Alaska Food Policy Council (https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/) is a nonprofit organization whose diverse membership works to engage Alaskans to make positive changes for the state’s food system, and to create a healthier, more prosperous and more secure future for all.

Alaska Farmers Markets Association to host free virtual summit on April 8

HOMER, Alaska (March 29, 2022) — The Alaska Farmers Markets Association will host its 2022 virtual summit from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, April 8. The theme is “Gather and Grow.” This event is free, but pre-registration is required.

“Whether you have run a market for 10 years or are just in the planning stages, the Alaska Farmers Markets Association is open to anyone interested in learning more about Alaska’s farmers markets, CSAs (community supported agriculture programs), farm stands, and food hubs,” said AFMA director Robbi Mixon, who recently was named to the board of directors for the national Farmers Market Coalition. “Grow your network and learn from market managers, farmers, government officials, and more.”

The keynote speakers this year are Mat-Su Health Foundation President/CEO Elizabeth A. Ripley and Dr. Gail Meyers, co-founder of Farms to Grow, Inc. Other presentations and discussion panels will be on how to keep farmers markets safe and the public healthy, why a census of agriculture matters for food security in Alaska, National Farmers Market Week (Aug. 7-13) events, a lunch-and-learn on ranked-choice voting, farmers market evaluation and data collection, food access programs, and more.

Conference sponsors include Cook Inletkeeper, the USDA Agriculture Marketing Service, and MarketLink (a program of the National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition). The Farmers Market Coalition will assist with some presentations and discussion panels. Funding for the summit was provided by a 2021-24 Farmers Market Promotion Program grant from the USDA.

To learn more about the conference and to register, go to https://www.alaskafarmersmarkets.org/2022-alaska-farmers-market-summit-april-8th/. For more information, contact Alaska Farmers Market Association Director Robbi Mixon at 907-235-4068, Ext. 23, or info@alaskafarmersamarkets.org.

Agenda released for the Alaska Food Festival and Conference scheduled for March 17-19

HOMER, Alaska (March 10, 2022) — The agenda has been released for the 2022 Alaska Food Festival and Conference, which is going virtual on Thursday through Saturday, March 17-19, this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s theme is “Everybody Eats: Nourishing Our Culture, Our Health, Our Future.”

This year’s agenda includes a variety of presentation topics, including a tribal youth track, a legislative update, the American Indian foods program, seaweed mariculture and wild harvest, sustaining traditional foods with science and technology, navigating the USDA for tribes, the Micro-Grants for Food Security program, and many others. These are just a small portion of the scheduled presentations, and the full agenda can be found at this link, https://whova.com/embedded/event/afpc_202203/?utc_source=ems.

Hosted by the Alaska Food Policy Council (AFPC), the Alaska Food Festival and Conference previously took place in Anchorage in 2014 and 2016, in Fairbanks in 2017, in Homer in 2019, and was virtual in 2020. This year, as in 2020, the conference was scheduled for Anchorage before going virtual due to COVID-19. The event takes place every 18 months.

In addition to the Alaska Food Policy Council, this event is co-sponsored by the Intertribal Agriculture Council and the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) Dietetics and Nutrition Program.

The four focus areas of this year’s conference are: Policy and Education, Production and Harvest, Culture and Community, and Business and Industry.

The goals of the conference and festival are to:

  1. increase awareness of Alaska food issues among the general population;
  2. provide training, resources, and networking opportunities to increase involvement in local food issues by community members and decision makers; and
  3. increase connections and build community between the public, Alaska food businesses, NGOs, governmental entities, tribal entities, and others to support local economic development and innovative solutions.

Past conferences have included presentations on food systems in Alaska, food security/insecurity, traditional foods, farmers markets, agriculture in Alaska, fisheries, food policy, food waste reduction, and more. The event opens with a movie, a tribal youth track for ages 10 through college (https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/2022-festival-conference, scroll down for info), and a pre-conference workshop with Alaska Village Initiatives on working with Alaska Native groups on collaborations (this workshop is free but pre-registration is required by going to this link, https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYlce2trjIqGdPZ9XNt1x53SRm6jd3gQmRe). Other plans include holding an online auction (https://www.32auctions.com/AFPC2022) and a conference online swag shop (https://www.bonfire.com/store/alaska-food-policy-council/).

Before the conference, the movie “Food for the Rest of Us” will be shown at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 17, using Zoom. The screening and post-screening panel discussion are free, but registration is required by going to this link, https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0qdeChrT0tG9DzyKsjJA5NKuE49P3Rpzjb.

“Food for the Rest of Us”, https://www.foodfortherestofus.org/, is a feature film that presents four stories of people living life on their own terms, serving as leaders who are lending their voice to the underdog and leading a revolution to a better world, from the ground up. An Indigenous-owned, youth-run organic farm in Hawai’i, a Black urban grower in Kansas City who runs a land-farm at East High School, a female Kosher butcher in Colorado working with the queer community, and an Inuit community on the Arctic Coast that is adapting to climate change with a community garden in a small geodesic dome. A panel discussion with the director and producer will follow the film.

This year’s confirmed keynote speakers and featured guests include:

  • Janie Simms Hipp, USDA general counsel
  • Eva Dawn Burke, University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Rural and Community Development and The Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy
  • Helga Garcia-Garza, executive director of Agri-Cultura Network and La Cosecha CSA
  • Caroline Cox (director) and Tiffany Ayalik (producer), Film: “Food for the Rest of Us” (special guests)
  • Iris Sutton, Ice Wedge Art and Farm (conference artist)

In addition, the three Alaska Food Hero Awards will be presented during the conference. A list of past Alaska Food Hero Award winners can be found at, https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/akfoodheroes.

Registration costs $40-$150, depending on the package, and you can register at this link, https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2022-alaska-food-festival-conference-tickets-232976558157. You also can purchase an Alaska Food Policy Council membership at that link. Thanks to the generosity of the Intertribal Agriculture Council and the Alaska Farmers Market Association, a limited number of registration fee scholarships are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and you can apply (by March 13) at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSf7U8nZPRg9zyK9TWGDOahsMgT2Cc58tEG4WrPDO64NMxTmrw/viewform.

More details about the 2022 Alaska Food Festival and Conference are available at this link, https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/2022-festival-conference.

For more information about the conference and the Alaska Food Policy Council (https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/), contact Robbi Mixon at (907) 235-4068, Ext. 23, or director@alaskafoodpolicycouncil.org.

###

The Alaska Food Policy Council (https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/) is a nonprofit organization whose diverse membership works to engage Alaskans to make positive changes for the state’s food system, and to create a healthier, more prosperous and more secure future for all.

The Intertribal Agriculture Council (https://www.indianag.org/) was founded in 1987 to pursue and promote the conservation, development and use of our agricultural resources for the betterment of our people. Land-based agricultural resources are vital to the economic and social welfare of many Native American and Alaskan Tribes. The harmonies of man, soil, water, air, vegetation and wildlife that collectively make-up the American Indian agriculture community, influence our emotional and spiritual well-being. The IAC has, over the last three decades, become recognized as the most respected voice within the Indian community and government circles on agricultural policies and programs in Indian country.

The University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) Dietetics and Nutrition Program (https://www.uaa.alaska.edu/academics/college-of-health/departments/school-of-allied-health/academics/dietetics-nutrition/) is a statewide education program that meets the growing needs of the dietetics and nutrition industry. This nationally accredited program trains entry-level, registered dietitian nutritionists, and community nutrition and nutrition science professionals throughout Alaska. Using an array of online and campus-based courses, the UAA Dietetics and nutrition program offers a minor in Nutrition, a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics, and a Master of Science in Dietetics.

Register now for the 2022 Alaska Food Festival and Conference

Registration is open for the 2022 Alaska Food Festival and Conference, which is going virtual on Friday and Saturday, March 18-19, this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It opens with a pre-conference movie on Thursday, March 17. This year’s theme is “Everybody Eats: Nourishing Our Culture, Our Health, Our Future.”

Hosted by the Alaska Food Policy Council (AFPC), the Alaska Food Festival and Conference previously took place in Anchorage in 2014 and 2016, in Fairbanks in 2017, in Homer in 2019, and was virtual in 2020. This year, as in 2020, the conference was scheduled for Anchorage before going virtual due to COVID-19. The event takes place every 18 months.

In addition to the Alaska Food Policy Council, this event is co-sponsored by the Intertribal Agriculture Council and the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) Dietetics and Nutrition Program.

The four focus areas of this year’s conference are: Policy and Education, Production and Harvest, Culture and Community, and Business and Industry.

The goals of the conference and festival are to:

  1. increase awareness of Alaska food issues among the general population;
  2. provide training, resources, and networking opportunities to increase involvement in local food issues by community members and decision makers; and
  3. increase connections and build community between the public, Alaska food businesses, NGOs, governmental entities, tribal entities, and others to support local economic development and innovative solutions.

Details for the event are still in the planning stage. But past conferences have included presentations on food systems in Alaska, food security/insecurity, traditional foods, farmers markets, agriculture in Alaska, fisheries, food policy, food waste reduction, and more. Other plans include holding an online auction, a youth track, and a pre-conference workshop with Alaska Village Initiatives.

This year’s confirmed keynote speakers and featured guests include:

  • Janie Simms Hipp, USDA general counsel
  • Eva Dawn Burke, University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Rural and Community Development and The Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy
  • Helga Garcia-Garza, executive director of Agri-Cultura Network and La Cosecha CSA
  • Caroline Cox (director) and Tiffany Ayalik (producer), Film: “Food for the Rest of Us” (special guests)
  • Iris Sutton, Ice Wedge Art and Farm (conference artist)

Before the conference, the movie “Food for the Rest of Us” will be shown at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 17, using Zoom. The screening and post-screening panel discussion are free, but registration is required by going to this link, https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_8huQr-GeR-W8UwCBXMhx7w.

“Food for the Rest of Us”, https://www.foodfortherestofus.org/, is a feature film that presents four stories of people living life on their own terms, serving as leaders who are lending their voice to the underdog and leading a revolution to a better world, from the ground up. An Indigenous-owned, youth-run organic farm in Hawai’i, a Black urban grower in Kansas City who runs a land-farm at East High School, a female Kosher butcher in Colorado working with the queer community, and an Inuit community on the Arctic Coast that is adapting to climate change with a community garden in a small geodesic dome. A panel discussion with the director and producer will follow the film.

In addition, the Alaska Food Hero Awards will be presented during the conference, and nominations are accepted at this link until Monday, Feb. 21, https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScJaHS_okDTYOdZojViXm4gC9w7C_v1J4uIpn4D9rVk0q1CyQ/viewform. A list of past Alaska Food Hero Award winners can be found at, https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/akfoodheroes.

People and organizations interested in presenting about Alaska food topics can submit presentation abstracts by Monday, Feb. 14, to https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeompK0G3jpNNFOeL1NOduc8QKG9tFPzNGaIAf0-VA9X6CVRQ/viewform. Information about previous conferences and their agendas can be found in the left column of this link, https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/2022-festival-conference.

If you’re interested in sponsoring the event, you can go to this link for more details about our sponsorship tiers, https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/2022-conference-sponsors.  

Registration costs $40-$150, depending on the package, and you can register at this link, https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2022-alaska-food-festival-conference-tickets-232976558157. Early bird registration and pricing ends on Monday, Jan. 31. You also can purchase an Alaska Food Policy Council membership at that link. Thanks to the generosity of the Intertribal Agriculture Council and the Alaska Farmers Market Association, a limited number of registration fee scholarships are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and you can apply at https://forms.gle/CPffkjzz3UuFWD7Y8.

A conference agenda will be available in late February. More details about the conference are available at this link, https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/2022-festival-conference.

For more information about the conference, contact Robbi Mixon at (907) 235-4068, Ext. 23, or director@alaskafoodpolicycouncil.org.

###

The Alaska Food Policy Council (https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/) is a nonprofit organization whose diverse membership works to engage Alaskans to make positive changes for the state’s food system, and to create a healthier, more prosperous and more secure future for all.

The Intertribal Agriculture Council (https://www.indianag.org/) was founded in 1987 to pursue and promote the conservation, development and use of our agricultural resources for the betterment of our people. Land-based agricultural resources are vital to the economic and social welfare of many Native American and Alaskan Tribes. The harmonies of man, soil, water, air, vegetation and wildlife that collectively make-up the American Indian agriculture community, influence our emotional and spiritual well-being. The IAC has, over the last three decades, become recognized as the most respected voice within the Indian community and government circles on agricultural policies and programs in Indian country.

The University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) Dietetics and Nutrition Program (https://www.uaa.alaska.edu/academics/college-of-health/departments/school-of-allied-health/academics/dietetics-nutrition/) is a statewide education program that meets the growing needs of the dietetics and nutrition industry. This nationally accredited program trains entry-level, registered dietitian nutritionists, and community nutrition and nutrition science professionals throughout Alaska. Using an array of online and campus-based courses, the UAA Dietetics and nutrition program offers a minor in Nutrition, a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics, and a Master of Science in Dietetics.

Registration open for Alaska Food Festival and Conference on March 8-9 in Homer

Registration is open for the 2019 Alaska Food Festival and Conference, which takes place on Friday and Saturday, March 8-9, at Land’s End Resort in Homer.

Hosted by the Alaska Food Policy Council (AFPC), this semi-annual event previously took place in Anchorage in 2014 and 2016 and in Fairbanks in 2017. This year, the Alaska Farmers Market Association is co-hosting the conference.

“This event is an amazing opportunity to meet enthusiastic folks from all parts of the Alaska food system to share ideas and dreams from educators to farmers, distillers to oyster growers, and communities from Tyonek to Port Lions to Kotzebue,” said Lorinda Lhotka, a governing board member of the Alaska Food Policy Council and one of the conference organizers. “There is truly something for everyone and when you leave this conference you will be motivated to take action to improve your local food system.”

Conference topics will cover Alaska’s vast and diverse food system. This year’s keynote speakers are Ben Feldman, policy director and interim executive director of the Farmers Market Coalition, and Courtney Long, program coordinator for the Iowa State University Cooperative Extension Service and Outreach/Local Foods Program.

Sessions will include presentations on farmers market issues, food security, policy, production, harvesting, business, education, community, tradition, sovereignty, fermenting, subsistence, growing, and more. Chef demonstrations, hands-on activities, vendor booths, and a Friday night social round out the event.

In conjunction with the Alaska Food Festival and Conference, two other events will take place in Homer during this week. There will be a Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training on Thursday, March 7, to teach commercial food growers how to meet the requirements of the new Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule. On Sunday, March 10, the Alaska Farmers Market Association will host its annual meeting and planning session.

“The first ever Alaska Farmers Market Association conference in 2017 brought together market organizers from around the state,” said Robbi Mixon, a governing board member of the Alaska Food Policy Council and coordinator of the Alaska Farmers Market Association. “We shared information and ideas, gained knowledge on running successful markets, and most importantly built a statewide community of market managers who support each other. We’ve joined forces with the Alaska Food Policy Council for our next edition, further broadening the experience and connections for Alaska’s farmers, markets, eaters, businesses, non‐profits, academics … really anyone with an interest in building a stronger food system.”

To learn more about this event, go to the conference website at http://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/2019-conference. The website has links to draft agendas and information about registration, event sponsorship, being a vendor, being a volunteer, and how to nominate someone for the Alaska Food Heroes Award. There are a limited number of travel scholarships.

We have arranged a 7 percent travel discount with RAVN Alaska, and people should use the code “AKFOODPOLICY” when booking their airfare. We also have a conference rate of 10-15 percent off regular winter rates at Land’s End Resort for people booking their rooms before March 1 and using the code “FARMERS2019.”

For more information about the conference, contact Robbi Mixon at (907) 235-4068, Ext. 23, or robbi@inletkeeper.org.

  • The Alaska Food Policy Council (https://www.akfoodpolicycouncil.org/) is a nonprofit organization whose diverse membership works to engage Alaskans to make positive changes for the state’s food system, and to create a healthier, more prosperous and more secure future for all.
  • The Alaska Farmers Market Association (http://www.alaskafarmersmarkets.org/) is a nonprofit whose mission is to support and promote vibrant and sustainable farmers markets throughout Alaska. AFMA is excited about this opportunity to gather state farmers market organizers and food system leaders together. Market organizers — look for sessions with a focus on farmers markets.

USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program awards two major grants to Alaska food projects

Two Alaska food projects were among 52 nationally to share in $13.4 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program announced this past weekThe competitive grants work to increase domestic consumption of, and access to, locally and regionally produced foods, and to develop new market opportunities for food production operations serving local markets.

Homer-based Cook Inletkeeper was awarded $403,334 to relaunch the Alaska Farmers Market Association and provide a support network for farmers and market managers. Sitka-based Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) won $91,141 to promote the benefits of flash-frozen seafood and marketing for rural seafood producers.

ALFA will provide support for consumer education on the environmental and quality benefits of purchasing frozen seafood, as well as to expand markets for and access to locally-caught seafood. ALFA has been working to study and change American attitudes towards frozen seafood since the 2009 launch of its Community Supported Fishery (CSF) program, Alaskans Own. Alaskans Own provides high quality, frozen seafood to customers in Alaska and the Lower 48.

“Many Alaskans are used to putting up seafood for the winter in their own freezers, and understand the high quality of carefully handled flash-frozen fish,” said Linda Behnken, Executive Director of ALFA.“However, many Americans hold onto the stereotype that fresh is always better than frozen when it comes to seafood. We have been working to show consumers why choosing frozen can be a better choice for quality — and for the environment.”

According to Ecotrust, a conservation organization based in Portland, “23 percent of seafood at supermarkets never makes it the dinner plate and goes to waste.” Frozen seafood often has increased quality and freshness, can reduce waste, and has a lower carbon footprint.

ALFA and community-based fishing partners at Port Orford Seafood and Real Good Fish worked with Ecotrust, Oregon State University, Seafood Analytics, and the Oregon Food Innovation Lab to compare consumer reactions to seafood in a blind taste test. The study allowed consumers to compare “frozen” and “fresh” seafood. The study utilized a new device, created by Seafood Analytics, that uses an electric current to measures freshness.

The results, according to Ecotrust, were telling; “not only did consumers prefer the frozen fish, but the flash-frozen products also rated higher in quality and freshness, as measured by the CQR (Certified Quality Reader).”

With these results in hand and support from USDA, ALFA will create a multi-media toolkit to help seafood producers, processors, and sellers share information on the advantages of flash frozen seafood, helping to establish or diversify their businesses. It will also provide training to producers and fishermen on using the CQR tool to develop quality assurance programs. ALFA will also work with partners at the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust launch a market-place portal where users can find and purchase local seafood and other sustainably-sourced goods.

The other Alaska grant, to Cook Inletkeeper, will help relaunch the Alaska Farmers Market Association, which was dormant for several years until this spring. The Sitka Local Foods Network submitted a letter of support for this grant proposal, which will provide some support to the Sitka Farmers Market.

“It’s an amazing step forward for local food programs in Alaska,” said Robbi Mixon, Local Foods Director at Cook Inletkeeper and Director of the Homer Farmers Market. “These new funds will be focused on market and producer sustainability, helping markets throughout the state assist participating producers, as well as the markets’ outreach to consumers.”

The project will recreate the Alaska Farmers Market Association, a statewide collaboration, with a targeting pilot effort across the Kenai Peninsula, will identify farmers’ market producer needs and provide specific trainings and support for those networks. The Alaska Farmers Market Association will also provide funding for market manager and farmer trainings, annual statewide conferences, and shared marketing, while collecting baseline data on a number of market metrics.

“Increasing food security and reducing food miles are vitally important to the sustained well-being of our communities around the state,” Mixon said. Mixon also manages the Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage Food Hub, a program of Cook Inletkeeper that provides an online market for 100 percent local foods and crafts. Mixon said, “95 percent of Alaska’s food is currently imported. Purchasing local food supports farms, increases our region’s food security, protects the environment, creates jobs and boosts the local economy.”

Since its creation in 2002, FMPP funding has assisted local producers to grow their businesses by helping them connect directly with the shoppers at farmers markets, roadside stands and through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. During that time, the number of farmers markets in America has more than doubled from 3,137 to over 8,684 today. FMPP grantees report an average 27 percent increase in vendor sales since receiving their grant, and 94 percent report an increase in first-time market customers.