In a land overflowing with natural resources, it stands to reason that Alaskans shouldn't go without food. However, many people lack the necessary skills needed to properly take advantage of the edible wild game and vegetation available in the area.
Recently, the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank began offering classes to help local people better feed themselves. Two such classes were offered last week, when Larry Lewis, a wildlife technician with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, presented a basic hunting course and a wild game field dressing course at the food bank.
The hunting classes were a way for people to learn how to better feed themselves without having to spend a lot of money, according to food bank director Peggy Moore.
"The focus is to help our clients become more self-reliant," Moore said Friday. "People need to be able to take advantage of the resources that are here."
She said that too often, even longtime peninsula residents don't know how to gather and care for wild game, leaving a huge source of food unreachable for many hungry Alaskans.
"A lot of people, even people that were born and raised here, don't go out and hunt. Unless you have the experience, you won't do it," she said.
About 10 people showed up for Lewis' Friday class, which covered the topics of how to successfully kill, butcher and pack out wild game animals. Lewis discussed rules for bringing meat out of the field and proper techniques to use in order to make sure wild game stays safe and edible.
He stressed that hunters need to take their time when field dressing their meat and not to get overly hurried or excited.
"Take your time. People get very excited about butchering an animal. Take a break. Get your wits about you, Lewis told the class.
He stressed that the most important thing is just getting the meat from the field to the freezer.
"You don't have to be a professional butcher to do this. Meat's meat, and it eats one way or another," he said.
Although it doesn't matter how pretty a hunter's cuts of meat are, certain laws have to be followed when butchering and bringing home an animal. Lewis said regulations vary throughout the state, and he said he strongly recommended taking hunting regulations along with other needed hunting gear.
Once people learn the basics of field dressing game animals, a smorgasbord of food awaits the innovative hunter. Lewis said even often overlooked parts of game animals can make a tasty treat.
"You want to eat moose nose?" he asked one curious student. "Boil the snot out of it."
In all seriousness, the class provided students with valuable information on how to help sustain themselves through the coming Alaska winter. That's just what the food bank hopes to do more of in the future, according to Moore.
"The winter is a tough time for the food bank," Moore said, and holding classes can help alleviate that winter strain.
Moore added that the food bank is planning at least two more food preparation classes. The first will deal with blanching and freezing vegetables and will be held Aug. 27. The second, to be held Aug. 29, will discuss wild berry identification and preservation. The classes are free and open to anyone who wants to know more about becoming more self-sufficient.
"We think it's a real positive thing that we can do for the community," Moore said.
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