Alaska’s Farm to School Program seeks community input in Bristol Bay

Nov 15, 2017

Jodie Anderson, Alaska's Farm to School coordinator, met with school representatives and growers in Dillingham and Naknek last week to discuss integrating more fresh and local food into school menus.

Jodie Anderson, left, leads the Dillingham Farm to School community meeting.
Credit Avery Lill/ KDLG

The state coordinator for Alaska’s Farm to School program, Jodie Anderson, held meetings around Bristol Bay last week. The purpose of the meetings in Dillingham and Naknek was to brainstorm with community members on how to increase the amount of fresh and local food schools serve students.

Alaska’s Division of Agriculture received a $100,000 federal grant in June to strengthen the Farm to School Program. In the first phase of that two year grant, Anderson hopes to focus efforts on Bristol Bay.

At the meeting in Dillingham, 11 people participated, representing local farmers, the Dillingham City School District, and the Southwest Region School District. Both growers and schools seemed enthusiastic about the idea of collaborating on providing more fresh food for students. The main obstacles they discussed were a lack of staff to process large quantities of veggies and lack of refrigerated storage.

Across the bay in Naknek, the main concern was supply and discussion hinged on supporting the few producers in the area. Anderson said right now the grant is in an information-gathering stage.

“I’ll go through and start doing research on things that were brought up and try to answer those immediate questions that came out of all these meetings. Then the next phase is figuring out what’s next and where the commonalities lie on both sides of the bay and how we can approach filling these gaps at a regional scale and still move forward,”  said Anderson.

Anderson’s goal is to significantly increase the amount of fresh food students eat at school by next school year. She hopes that by developing infrastructure in Bristol Bay as a pilot region, she will be able to use the lessons learned to create a tool kit for other rural regions of the state to make similar developments.

Contact the author at avery@kdlg.org or 907-842-5281.