Food Security in Sitka: The Sitka Local Foods Network
Born of a need and desire voiced by the Sitka community to have more access to healthy, locally produced foods, The Sitka Local Foods Network is a non-profit organization working to support a thriving local food system in their community.
During the 2008 Annual Sitka Health Summit, community members identified a need for better access to healthy, locally produced food as a community health priority. The Sitka Local Foods Network was created to support the development of a community market, community greenhouse, and community garden program to promote a local food system.
The Local Foods Network currently focuses on the following five priorities:
1. Creating and operating the Sitka Farmers Market
2. Expanding local community and family gardens
3. Planning and building a Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center
4. Promoting the responsible and sustainable use of traditional foods (subsistence foods)
5. Providing educational opportunities, technical expertise and encouragement
The Local Foods Network successfully coordinated and operates the Sitka Farmers Market. With the help of a local Master Gardener the Network also operates Fellowship Farm, a small plot of land in town that provides fresh produce for sale at the Farmers Market. Volunteers help work to maintain the garden in exchange for produce that they help to grow. Profits made selling the produce goes directly back into the garden to pay for seeds and growing supplies.
Sitka Local Foods Network provides an educational service to the community by coordinating workshops and classes to teach community members the skills necessary to gather, grow, and preserve their own food supply. The Local Food Network partners with community members and the UAF Cooperative Extension to provide these educational services.
The Local Foods Network is currently exploring funding options to construct a community greenhouse that would serve multiple purposes for the organization. The greenhouse could help to lengthen the growing season for Fellowship Farm’s produce, provide a suitable environment to grow plant starts in early spring, produce bedding plants to sell at the Farmers Market, and provide a facility for health practitioners to utilize horticultural therapy for patients as well as an educational center for classes and workshops.
The Local Foods Network is also involved in making locally caught commercial seafood more accessible to community residents. In addition to Sitka Conservation Society’s Fish to Schools Program, the community of Sitka supports Alaska’s Own, a Community Supported Fishery (CSF) program. Operating under a model similar to that of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), consumers purchase a share of their choosing and receive locally caught commercial seafood as it comes into season.
Sitka Local Foods Network is motivated by and focused on food justice; making nutritious local food easily accessible and available to community residents. The organization is also keenly aware of national policies currently in place that challenge their goal of making the healthy choice the easy choice when it comes to food and nutrition. The Sitka Local Foods Network aims to help make Sitka a resilient community by facilitating access to a secure, healthy, and locally-based food system.For more information on this project see the Sitka Local Foods Network website