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Study examines availability of seafood to area residents

Posted: September 28, 2011 - 9:47pm  |  Updated: September 29, 2011 - 9:05am

Do you eat fish? If you do, where do you get it? Do you get it as often as you want to? Can you afford it?

Soon, if they haven't already, 1,500 Kenai Peninsula residences will receive a post card from the University of Alaska Fairbanks asking them to answer six questions like these as part of a new study about food security on the Kenai Peninsula.

The study is the project of Hannah Harrison, a Homer-grown UAF grad student working with research professors Phil Loring and Craig Gerlach.

The questions they're asking in this study are specifically aimed at identifying local use of seafood with an emphasis on salmon.

The researchers use the United Nations definition of food security, which Harrison summarizes as "Can you get food that's safe to eat, that's nutritious, that is affordable and that is culturally preferred?"

She said that with the abundance of food resources available on the peninsula, the idea that some residents can't access enough good food might seem strange.

But it seems to be true. From interviews conducted around the region last month, Harrison said need is up at area food pantries and a number of barriers prevent people from benefiting from local foods.

"It makes no difference if a fish is here, but if it's like $20 a pound nobody can afford it, it might as well not be here," Harrison said, also pointing out that a person can't buy a locally caught fish at a grocery store in Homer.

Overall, Alaska has much higher food insecurity rate than rest of United States, and though data indicates the Kenai rate to be lower than statewide, approximately 18 percent of residents experience food insecurity.

"The study is about identifying barriers that keep local, sustainably caught or grown foods from making it into local markets and diets at prices people can actually afford to buy it," Harrison said.

While seafood is considered a non-essential food source in some places, Harrison sees it as an important part of Southcentral Alaskans' physical and cultural health.

"My personal opinion having grown up here is that no, it's not a luxury food. This is a local food we catch it right here. It should be a part of our diets," she said.

Raised in a commercial gillnetting family, Harrison got her bachelor of science in natural resource management at UAF and is now going for a masters of science through the School of Cross-Cultural Studies there.

This project fits her criteria for helping change the world by considering the Kenai's environmental ethnography, that is, the role of this region's resources in the culture of its people: what it is to live in a fishing culture and how food security affects that culture.

Loring has a long list of publications on the topic of food security, though most has focused on subsistence in the interior.

He said the current study the first real push to involve the commercial fishery component in the question of food security. It's also a first hard look into the Kenai Peninsula.

"Based on what I know it's going to be a very productive area," Loring said, calling it a microcosm of the entire state. "You have people who hunt for subsistence, you have commercial fishing and tourism as major employers, you have a whole variety of ecosystems, you also have different communities of different cultural heritages; and you have the single line of connectivity to Anchorage," he explained.

So far, response to the study has been positive, and the researchers are hopeful to receive enough feedback from survey to make results useful to future work on the topic.

"We want to ask questions that are meaningful to the communities that we're researching and will eventually assist them in making choices about food. We don't want to just ask a question for the heck of asking," Harrison said.

The survey will come in the mail between now and the first weeks of October. It will also be available to fill out online.

Though the study sample will be limited to the 1,500 randomly selected residences, Harrison and Loring welcome input on the topic.

Email ploring@alaska.edu.

Lindsay Johnson may be reached at lindsay.johnson@homernews.com.

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northernlights
216
Points
northernlights 09/30/11 - 01:05 pm
0
0
having enough food

I think you should start your study with those folks who go to the foodbank to get their food. How long have they been a resident, are they new to this area like only being here in the last few years. The reason I say that is, why would you travel thousand of miles to live here, did your job fall through, did you come up only for the PFD, are you recently divorced with children to feed and do not qualify for food stamps. How long have you been un-employed (if un-employed) If you are working and still cannot earn enough money to feed yourself, then that is something that really needs to be looked at. Also, are some of these people disabled and are not receiving enough for food. thats something to seriously consider. I would want to know, if any of these people who do not get enough food, are they willing and able to work, if so, why arent they. Another question I have is; do these people know how to budget their money, and what kind of food are they buying. I was a single mother, with three kids, I worked, budgeted my money and made a weekly grocery list. We had food every day and nice dinners. On your research, go to the core, to the source and find out the details such as these questions to those who do not have enough food. Do they smoke? Are they addicted to anything? Addictions come before dinners. You will find answers quicker if you go directly to the people.

northernlights
216
Points
northernlights 09/30/11 - 01:11 pm
0
0
One more thing

I feel the need to add one more comment, we dont need another hand out program. People are where they are in life because of their beleiving, because of the actions they take. Unfortunate things happen to all of us, I am not talking about that. Such as being left with kids to feed and your spouse ran out on you. Or stricken with cancer or a disease which enables you to work. I have been there. What concerns me the most is; what caused them to be where they are, how long have they been like that (without much food) do they have plans, a goal to work towards to get them on their feet. If a person is able to work and refuses to, then no one should be concerned about them not eating. You dont give a person a fish, you teach them how to fish.

witchwitch
51
Points
witchwitch 09/30/11 - 01:56 pm
0
0
northernlights "addiction before dinner"

The most prevalent "addiction before dinner" here on the Kenai Peninsula is our Borough Assembly's addiction to tax revenue, as shown by their introduction of Proposition One.

Borough citizens voted for their seasonal exemption for grocery tax. However, just like term limits and every other voter approved initiative, the Assembly just can't accept such a limitation. Our local politicians are addicted to power and YOUR money.

radiokenai
562
Points
radiokenai 10/01/11 - 10:09 am
0
0
You have missed the entire boat...
Unpublished

Though your study is admirable, you have missed the boat. It isn't about people not wanting to eat healthy fish; it is about the COST of doing so, combined with the COMPETITION and HEADACHE that has been created by seasonal charters and businesses promoting the Kenai River beyond its capacity. I simply do not have time nor patience to sit on a river bank and combat fish with elbow to elbow tourists. Not to mention spending cost of gas, outboard fuel, license, lures, line, boots, nets, hooks, sinkers, sodas, glasses, hats, bait, parking fees, camping slot fees, boat launch fees and lets not forget taxes (including the new food tax), insurance, trailers tags and finally the biggy: A three thousand dollar 4-stroke because I my 2-stroke has been outlawed due to excessive people on the river due to the advertising industries exploitation of the Kenai River

When you add all these fees, fines, licenses, taxes, equipment and overhead, just to go out and fight with a mob of tourists, well you get what is expected.

Then a study finds that a majority of residents do what I did over the last several years and say the hell with it and don’t even purchase a hunting-fishing license in the first place. Go stuff your damn fish.

It pleases me to know that one day soon, you to will be sitting at home without a fish in the brook. It is only a matter of time.

Soldotna01
0
Points
Soldotna01 10/05/11 - 07:00 am
0
0
Just ask the commercial fisherman.

It's readily available at $15/lb. What a joke.

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