14 March 2019
By Jen Schmidt
The Alaska Food Festival & Conference has been held around Alaska since 2014 and focuses on policy, research, programs and practical application on a variety of food system issues, such as food security, production, business and community issues. Even though this might sound serious, the conference was very lively and there was a lot of good food! Some of the sessions had people showcasing how to make sausage, sourdough bread and brownies with samples!
The MicroFEWs team presented their Food-Water-Energy nexus project highlighting how renewable energy can be used for food production and preservation. We also discussed food security in rural Alaska and some of the challenges associated with getting food into communities and growing food locally.
Some of the issues faced by rural Alaska communities include unpredictable shipments of food, limitations in storage in some stores, poor soil and a shortage of trained workers for greenhouses to grow food locally. We asked the audience if they had any suggestions or advice for communities in rural Alaska to help address their food security issues. Some suggested that communities could work together and take advantage of training opportunities provided by the Alaska Division of Agriculture at the Department of Natural Resources, starting composting sooner than later because it can take years to get nutritious soil, and many emphasized that whatever solution is found it has to be sustainable.
Getting local food production projects going like a greenhouse take a lot of time and money so having skilled go-getters in communities is important, but there also needs to be a sustainable plan once investments are made that include engaging community members and maybe developing partnerships with surrounding communities.
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