White E awards Sitka Local Foods Network 2023 grant to match SNAP/WIC produce sales

Sitka White Elephant Shop volunteer Sarah Jordan, right, presents Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham with a grant check to match SNAP/WIC produce sales at the Sitka Farmers Market this summer and help with other Sitka Local Foods Network program expenses.

The Sitka White Elephant Shop (aka, the White E thrift shop) awarded the Sitka Local Foods Network with a $2,000 grant during its 2023 grant cycle. In 2018, the White E awarded the Sitka Local Foods Network $1,000. The amount was increased to $1,500 in 2019 and 2020, and we didn’t apply for a grant in 2021 because of the pandemic. We received $1,000 in 2022.

The grant mainly will be used to provide matching funds for SNAP and WIC beneficiaries who purchase produce at the Sitka Farmers Market and other events where the SLFN sells produce. The Sitka Local Foods Network began providing SNAP matching dollars for the first $20 of produce purchases at the markets several years ago when there was a state grant, but in 2017 those state grant funds ran out and we used our Sitka Local Foods Network general fund to match the produce purchases.

The White E grants, starting in 2018, have helped us continue the matching program. We also started matching the $5 WIC farmers market produce coupons in 2017, using our general fund (in 2019, we were the only farmers market in the state authorized to match WIC coupons). If the senior farmers market coupons are finally distributed in Southeast Alaska in 2023, our intention is to match those as well.

We grow most of the produce sold at the Sitka Farmers Market locally at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, and our satellite gardens around town. St. Peter’s Fellowship holds a Certified Naturally Grown designation, which means we follow healthy and sustainable practices while growing our produce, including limited use of chemical fertilizers. The Sitka Farmers Market also is on the Certified Naturally Grown’s Guide To Exceptional Markets.

“Our mission is to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans, but buying local produce can be difficult for people on food assistance programs,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “Local produce can be fresher and tastier than barged-in produce from the Lower 48, and it doesn’t lose its nutritional value during transit. Our matching funds help get more healthy local produce into the diets of lower-income residents of Sitka. A lot of people don’t realize how much income inequality there is in Sitka, and according to the Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report released in 2014, there were 1,410 people and 766 families receiving SNAP benefits in Sitka during 2013. That’s about one out of six Sitka residents who need extra access to this healthy local produce.”

The White E made several grants during the 2023 grant cycle, but a complete list wasn’t available. The Sitka Local Foods Network thanks the White E for its support. The White E noted that the amount of money it’s been able to donate to local nonprofits has decreased in recent years, starting even before the pandemic hit and closed the store for several months. The White E is encouraging people to donate quality used clothes, toys, and other items to sell so it can raise the amount of contributions it makes to local nonprofits again next year.

Like what we do? Now you or your business can sponsor the Sitka Local Foods Network in 2021

The Sitka Local Foods Network in recent years created a sponsorship program to help promote our mission, and Sitka businesses and individuals are welcome to join for 2021. The goal of the sponsorship program is to make the projects we undertake (Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, gardening education, food business development, etc.) more sustainable.

“Sitka has a precarious position when it comes to food security, and the Sitka Local Foods Network is trying to improve our food security through our mission to increase the amount of locally harvested and produced foods in the diets of Southeast Alaskans,” Sitka Local Foods Network president Charles Bingham said. “Sponsors of the Sitka Local Foods Network are working with an organization and a farmers market that values local food and businesses, fun, premium quality goods and experiences.”

In recent years, the Sitka Local Foods Network has hosted seven Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer (from July to September). Due to COVID-19, we had to greatly scale back our 2020 Sitka Farmers Markets, focusing just on produce sales and using an online sales portal, but we did double our number of market weeks. We haven’t set our 2021 dates yet, but we anticipate we will have a more normal market experience this year.

In addition, we grow most of the local produce sold at the markets at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden and a couple of other locations in town. In March 2020 we built a new high tunnel at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, which helped us increase our produce production despite a wet and cold summer, and we’re looking to add another new high tunnel before the 2021 growing season. We usually offer a variety of garden education classes in the spring. And one way we ensured fresh, local produce is available to lower-income Sitkans is through our matching program for WIC and SNAP beneficiaries (the first $20 spent on produce at the market), courtesy of recent grants from the Sitka White Elephant Shop.

In 2018 we launched a new food business innovation contest to inspire food entrepreneurs in Sitka, and have continued the program with the expectation of hosting it in 2021 (our 2020 winners were baker Andrew Jylkka of Southeast Dough Company and mushroom grower/harvester Levi Adams of Forage and Farm). We also have hosted the annual Running of the Boots costumed fun run fundraiser, with 2018 and 2019 in partnership with Youth Advocates of Sitka and canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19. In addition, we support other local food projects in Sitka, such as the Fish to Schools lunch program and the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen.

There are four levels of sponsorship available, and each has its own set of perks.

  • Grower ($2,500-plus) — We’ll hang your banner at ANB Hall during the Sitka Farmers Markets, include your logo and company name prominently in our merchandise and advertisements, and thank you on our social media and web pages. If appropriate for the Sitka Farmers Market, you may set up a free promotional booth.
  • Harvester ($1,000-$2,499) — We’ll hang your banner at ANB Hall during the Sitka Farmers Markets and include your logo and company name in our merchandise and advertisements.
  • Planter ($250-$999) — Your banner will hang at ANB Hall during the Sitka Farmers Markets.
  • Friend ($50-$249) — You are listed on our online sponsor page.

We have limited space for banners at the Sitka Farmers Markets, so please contact us before May 1 to guarantee your spot. To learn more about the sponsorship program, click the link below for details and a registration form. For more information, contact Charles Bingham at (907) 623-7660 or by email at charleswbingham3@gmail.com, or email us at sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

• 2021 Sitka Local Foods Network sponsorship program details and registration form