Sunday, December 16th

Mixed Bag: Trickle Down Dining, Growing Food Waste, Looming Grain Crisis, Continuing Converations
121612Salmonjars654 (35k image)
Eating Alaska continues to travel: College and University campuses, public libraries, community groups, homes, conferences, food justice and food security discussions. In Alaska, where the film is set, the conversations have changed since we started cooking up this project.

We began the film with women hunting as a thread. A hook--as we challenged ourselves to tell a coherent, funny and serious story of what it means to eat local and to think about where food comes from. We wanted to mix sharing and extolling beautiful scenery, a frontier spirit and living close to the land, hunting and harvesting wild foods with realistic challenges like toxins polluting wild food and farmed fish damaging wild stocks. We decided to take viewers on an adventure and mix in food colonization impacting the health of Alaska Natives, barge and plane based food miles, a harsh climate and the end of cheap oil.

In Alaska, as well as other places, there's some good news since we wrapped the film and set off screening and airing Eating Alaska from Fairbanks to Warsaw, in small rural libraries and schools, urban film festivals and national conferences. There are more farmers' markets now. There's a state food policy council, e-mails filled with updates on resources to create gardens and improve food opportunities, plus efforts to get local fish on the plates of kids in school. More funders, politicians, writers and other non-profits have joined in the conversations about food systems, local economies, making a connection to food and the environment, to the value of protecting a resource like salmon for economic, as well as ecological reasons. Chickens and backyard gardens are on the rise. But so are food prices and the gaps in who gets to eat well.

Add this to the mix on the national and international front: Prop 37 in California, requiring the labeling of GMO's on foods failed. Food safety breakdowns with peanut butter, spinach and eggs has led to recalls and lots of media. Yet as an article on the Grace Foundation site suggests, this has "failed to change the way food is produced, or processed." There are discussions of food waste. For example, Susie Cagle writes in Grist, "40% of food grown in the U.S. is trashed -- and a lot of it is still perfectly edible." Plus there's new studies of how food insecurity increases the likelihood of shopping for low prices, impacting food choices and obesity.

A new year is around the corner. While the UN warns of looming worldwide food crisis and food unrest, growing out of low grain reserves, at least handful more of us will be eating kale and beets. According to a restaurant consultant group: "Its observation on trickle-down dining sticks out in particular. Kale, beet greens, chard, turnip greens and mustard greens -- all rejected by mainstream diners in past years -- are "trick[ling] down to mass-market feeders." A burger with BBQ-flavored kale chips is a thing, apparently." (Read more on the crisis at the Guardian and on food trends at Huffington Post)

Like our documentary, with its twists and turns, there isn't a one size fits all solution to how more people can get access to healthy sustainable affordable food. We can hope and take part in a larger movement to ensure that awareness and discussion go hand in hand with action and can help impact attitudes as well as policies and programs.

In the meanwhile, that image above is our home caught and canned smoked salmon. Our gifts for the season. Doing it yourself takes time. it serves not only as sustenance, but at times, as a good buffer against the darkness of headlines and the results of studies.

Ellen Frankenstein, on 12.16.12 @ 22:45AKT [link]

Tuesday, September 11th

Eating Alaska: a wry search for the "right thing to eat."
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Headlines and Conversations
There is a lot of news and debate surrounding the environment and food. Statistics reveal a link between climate change and global food prices, waves created by Hurricane Isaac recently exposed oil from the BP spill and headlines proclaim that organic foods are no more nutritious than conventional ones.  In the midst of the headlines, it is great to share a film that asks viewers of all ages to think about how our relationship to food choices and food systems impacts the health of our bodies, our communities and our planet.

Screenings Continue
This summer included talks and screenings at the The Association for the Study of Literature and Environment
to students in summer programs from University of San Francisco and Knox College, plus a screening at the Sitka Seafood Festival.

Coming up: a re-broadcast across on Alaska Public Television and a screening at the Slow Film International Film Festival-Brazil, plus use campus, school, public library and community use.

Since finishing the film, we've hosted and encouraged screenings and events with Eating Alaska from Fairbanks and New York City to Croatia and Scotland, shown in churches, film festivals and community halls. We've screened the hour long documentary in theaters with amazing sound systems, school rooms full of teenagers and as part of events with local foods and local speakers, harvesters, nutritionists, elders and educators. Contact us if you'd like to host a screening in your living room, church, classroom or community.

Ellen Frankenstein, on 09.11.12 @ 10:50AKT [link]

Tuesday, December 20th

Eating Alaska 2011-2012
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What's on your plate? Where did it come from? How do we create a food system where more people have access to safe and healthy foods?
The questions surrounding what we eat and the momentum of good-real food movement are keeping Eating Alaska in use as a tool to provoke conversation and action.

Looking Back--2011
Slow Food, Public Library screenings, conferences, campus screenings, food coops and festivals including:
-The North American Environmental Education Conference in Raleigh, NC
-4th Annual Environmental Film Festival 
Fort Collins, Colorado
-Wenatchee Valley Environmental Film Series
-Carleton College
 Screening as part of a discussion questioning,"Is meat immoral?
-An Earth Day Speaking Ttour in the Midwest at Grinnell, Knox, and University of Madison, WI and other special campus screenings and events from Arizona State to Fairbanks.
-More PBS screenings across the country

Looking Ahead--2012
Discovery Center
January 14, 2012
Ketchikan, Alaska
3 PM

Jan 23, 2011
Jefferson Hospital Auditorium
5:30 PM (or TBA)

From screenings in Ketchikan, AK to the Slow Film - International Film And Food Festiva in Brazil, We have screenings in the works in Philly, Eugene, New Orleans and possibly another Earth Day tour to college campuses in New England.
Plus we’llbe the plenary speakers at TThe Study of Literature and Environment’'s Symposium, “Environment, Culture, and Place in a Rapidly Changing Northin June.

In the works

The word is Eating Alaska has been part of a movement.

Locally, in Sitka, Alaska, that has meant an increasing number of Farmer's Markets, home gardens and chickens along with fishing, hunting and gathering. We can cheer, but that is done with an understanding that a lot of people aren't eating well and food prices are soaring.

Learn more at : Sitka Local Foods Network.

And this is part of a letter to the editor, that we signed on to:

"Many in Sitka are feeling squeezed not only by rising fuel costs, but also by escalating food costs. The September 2011 Alaska Food Cost Survey, conducted by University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, calculated the local weekly food cost for a family of four as $198.41. This is a 44-percent increase since 2006, when the same market basket cost was $138.14. Local food costs in Sitka are 57 percent higher than in Portland, Ore., 37 percent more than in Anchorage and 30 percent more than in Juneau.

Feeding America 2011 statistics report that 11.7 percent of Sitka’s borough is “food insecure.” This translates to 1,030 Sitkans and other Baranof Islanders who sometimes are completely without a source of food on a regular basis."

These combined statistics paint a picture of increasing vulnerability when it comes to securing nutritious food on a regular basis. In the nutrition and public health world, this tenuous access to healthy food is known as food insecurity. So, how can Sitka, collectively and creatively, respond to food insecurity? Sitka can respond by INCREASING ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE LOCAL FOOD.

The Sitka Local Foods Network is working towards improving access to nutritious, local foods through five interconnected strategies. Together, these five strategies can move Sitka toward a more food-secure future. They are:

Promoting traditional and customary food gathering and preservation.
Developing a gardening campaign to assist Sitkans in learning to grow some of their own food.
Growing the number of community gardens.
Creating a community greenhouse and promoting commercial greenhouses to increase year-round access to local fruits and vegetables."

What are we (Eating Alaska) going to do in 2012?
Help out the local food network, make a fun short film about chicken coops and do what we can to keep the conversation going.

What is happening in your workplace, campus or community? Let us know!

Ellen Frankenstein, on 12.20.11 @ 13:46AKT [link]

Monday, October 24th

Food Day
Food Day October 24, 2011
Food Day seeks to bring together Americans from all walks of life"parents, teachers, and students; health professionals, community organizers, and local officials; chefs, school lunch providers, and eaters of all stripes"to push for healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable, humane way.

It means events like this:
-Food Day potlucks at different homes across Alaska.
People will be serving dishes using local ingredients and recipes from cookbooks highlighting native Alaskan cuisine.
-Conference on food deserts and food served at prisons in San Francisco-
-Booth at one of the grocery stores featuring fruits & veggies in Nogales, AZ.
-Undoing Racism Food Event in Ithaca, NY and more

It is all about access to healthy, sustainable food.

Eating Alaska
We just uploaded a revised and updated discussion guide You can download it here.

Just back from a presentation/screening in North American Environmental Education Conference in Raleigh
as screenings happened in Fort Lewis, at Carleton College and in Fairbanks.

More screenings ahead in New York, Philly and beyond.

Ellen Frankenstein, on 10.24.11 @ 15:25AKT [link]

Thursday, September 8th

Some Eating Alaska Screenings FALL 2011

North American Association for Environmental Education Conference
Raleigh, NC
October 13, 2011

Carleton College
Screening is part of a discussion questioning,"Is meat immoral?
sponsored by the Philosophy Department and a student organization
October 13, 2011 (details to be confirmed)

Feast on This Film Festival
Keene, NH
October 13-16

FoodDayLogoLinear (46k image)
October 24, 2011
Six Food Day principles:
-Reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods
-Support sustainable farms & limit subsidies to big agribusiness
-Expand access to food and alleviate hunger
-Protect the environment & animals by reforming factory farms
-Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to kids
-Support fair conditions for food and farm workers

In Sitka, we're planning a community food day scavenger hunt.
Go to the Food Day site to see what is happening on your campus or in your community.

Ellen Frankenstein, on 09.08.11 @ 18:42AKT [link]

Thursday, February 17th

What we eat, where it comes from, issues, conversations, screenings
Genetically Modified Organisms
We made the documentary Eating Alaska to provoke viewers to think about what it means to eat, to question where our food comes and to think among other things about safety, ethics and sustainability. While we crammed in everything from farmed fish and toxic chemicals, along with food colonization and the ambivalence of a sometime vegetarian, we didn't directly address GMOs in the film. Yet, the issue is not only relevant, it keeps bubbling up and slipping onto our plates.

The latest news on GMOs is that the United States is going to allow farmers to plant genetically altered alfalfa. This is without any of the restrictions that are crucial to protect organic and conventional farm fields from contamination. According to a press release, "Alfalfa is the fourth-largest U.S. field crop grown, worth roughly $8 billion to $10 billion and grown on about 20 million acres as food for dairy cattle and other livestock'" READ MORE,

We're going to have be more careful about what we eat. But can we? What does this mean for neighboring organic farms? How can they not be contaminated? Once contaminated they can no longer be certified as organic.

As posted in Just Means
"Our local food community wonders if the USDA may start bending some rules to accommodate the plight of the organic farmer because contamination is inevitable in the long run. Even if organic farmers are able to change the fodder as one feed after another becomes contaminated in the biotech hustle, what will happen when all fodder is contaminated to the point of certified organic food being an impossible goal?"

Meanwhile, US Senators from Alaska, have introduced legislation last month seeking to ban Aquabounty's so-called Frankenfish. A great step, writes Nicolaas Mink in an editorial in the Juneau Empire. U.S. Sens. Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski have "put the interests of Alaskan citizens over corporate plutocrats and near-sighted regulators. We should applaud the senators for their intervention on behalf of our state's most important economic, cultural, and natural resource."

But things are messy, the biotech industry, as the alfalfa ruling reflects, has power. What can we do? Mink words his suggestion eloquently:
"... what we can do is become better informed food consumers. The Frankenfish controversy should make all Alaskans[and others], regardless of political beliefs or party affiliations, take a step back and see the bigger picture. Every time we purchase a soft drink sweetened with corn syrup or a pork roast fattened on soy, we are, in effect, supporting the system that has birthed the same genetically-engineered salmon that threatens the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of Alaskans. Seen in this light, drawing a line in the sand at genetically-modified salmon is akin to standing nose-deep in Cook Inlet and not wanting to get your hair wet."


From a campus blog:
"On March 10, the film Eating Alaska comes to the Kiva silver screen.
The award-winning piece asks the question, (do not worry, it also answers the question) What happens when a vegetarian moves to the Great Frontier and marries a commercial fisherman, who is also a deer hunter. Food fight? You will have to join us at 5 p.m. on the 10th. Wonder if they will be serving grizzly-kabobs during the intermission?"

4th Annual Environmental Film Festival
Presented by The Rocky Mountain Sustainable Living Association, JAX Outdoor World and the Colorado State University Student Sustainability Center.
Fort Collins, Colorado
March 5, 2011
11 am

ThinK Film and Speaker Series
Hosted by the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences
Arizona State University
March 10, 2011
5 p.m.

Slow Food in the Tetons
Thursday, March 17
Victor, Idaho

Monday, April 18th
Knox College
Round Room, Ford Center for Fine Arts
7 PM
Film Showing and Discussion with Filmmaker
sponsored by the environmental club and garden club.

Tuesday, April 19th
Augustana College
Olin Auditorium
Film Showing and Discussion with Filmmaker

Wednesday, April 20
Grinnell College
Joe Rosenfield Center
Film Showing the Panel Discussion

Wenatchee Valley Environmental Film Series
Tuesday, April 19 7pm
Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center
Wenatchee, WA
Following the screening, retired University of Alaska professor Mark Oswood will speak briefly and answer questions. Oswood is president of the NCW Audubon Society, which sponsors the film. Samples of several Alaskan foods will be available including smoked salmon, fish pate and reindeer sausages.

The Eating, Reading, and Living Well Series
presented by the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library
sponsored by Mississippi Market.
The series features local authors writing about local foods and more!
Monday, May 9 at 7:00 pm
St. Paul, MN
Highland Park Library, Hillcrest Rec. Center Auditorium

Friday April 22, 2011 at 10 PM

Sunday, May-29-11 at 8 pm
WYFI Indianapolis

Thursday, March 10 at 7:00 PM
KAKM, Anchorage, AK
With March pledge drive break interviews with Roger Swain,
former host of The Victory Garden on PBS

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 at 10 PM
KCET HD, Los Angeles

Following broadcasts in late December and January in Arizona, Ohio, Alabama, Florida, Arkansas, Michigan and many other stations!

See a great short on Alex Davis, the organic farmer, in Eating Alaska
He's added hogs and ducks and continues to try to grow the best local fresh vegetables he can and involve his family in the process.
Click here

Ellen Frankenstein, on 02.17.11 @ 11:19AKT [link]

Monday, January 3rd

Eating Alaska from the backyard to policy, politics and engagement
Part I Reflections
I wanted to sit down and start writing about food issues and using Eating Alaska to add to the conversation, to think about what's happened in 2010 and what's ahead in 2011. Instead, I look out the window into the yard crowded with piles of wood both for the stove and our 10 plus year long remodeling project, my husband's commercial fishing gear and the garden beds, dormant for the winter. It is a solidly gray day, but the clouds haven't covered Gavan Mountain with its thick wall of hemlock, spruce and cedar trees. Leaves gone, the salmonberry and raspberry bushes are a tangle of sticks, except where I trimmed. I wonder if I pruned too much and how the berries will produce next year. It was an excellent summer for carrots and kale and some of the kale is overwintering. Last night we dined local on troll caught salmon, homegrown potatoes and our entire crop of small tender brussel spouts.

I'm not sure what percentage of the food on our plates is local throughout the year. I know there are critiques of the local food movement. Is it really better for the environment? Who has access to it and how much can we really do? I'm no purist and I'm not giving up coffee or chocolate without a struggle, nor am I sure if the way we wash dishes by hand living in a rainforest with hydropower is less efficient than a dishwasher.

It is hard to say here it is: a set in stone solid answer to what makes sense to eat, to buy, to plug in or throw out. We can think about possibilities, accept that our choices have an impact (good and bad) and regain, as others have said, our power as consumers. There are plenty of books and studies about what creates action and change, but instead of reading them, I putter in the garden, smoke salmon, make films, work with kids and explore how that fits into the community and national conversation.

The making and sharing of the documentary Eating Alaska, turned into an amazing opportunity to share not only confusion, but ideas and hope. It has meant screenings with sustainability fairs complete with chickens, worms and talks on harvesting seaweed, beekeepers, butchers, vegans, writers, Slow Fooders, kids and adults. There have been Eating Alaska events tied to fundraisers for new farmers markets and community greenhouses. Elementary students have drawn local foods, listed and portrayed what they'd miss if they left the place they lived (in Alaska that often brings up fish, berries, moose, mountains, the ocean and life in a small town or village), teens have talked about both the ethics behind our food choices and the connection between the way we consume and the contamination from development and industries like gas, oil and mining.

We've heard of families talking together, about their food choices after a screening. A hunter told me she wanted to start gardening and a vegan or two has decided that maybe killing your own food is okay and more sustainable than buying tempeh or tofu that comes from 1500 or more miles away. A man told me that after years he could no longer look into the eyes of a deer, pull a trigger and take a life. At screenings from Long Island to Colorado and California, a hand or two often goes up along with a comment or question about fishing and if it is all bad, emptying the seas forever. We've used these questions as an opportunity to talk about what sustainable non-farmed fishing looks like, to point out that fishermen and fishing families are like small farmers. We've also shared our worries about ocean acidification and what that means for plankton, fish and sea mammals. Two homesteaders debated about whether being plugged into the world and Facebooking and such was a good thing or a bad thing for the purity of their lifestyle, off the grid.

I can't measure the sum total of over two years of these exchanges or to evaluate what they mean statistically and how much impact this stirring up a bit of the pond has had. I do know there is a lot more work to be done to generate awareness, keep the questions both on the surface and deeper, to help lead kids and families to ways to have access to better food, to understand and to connect to where they live and to encourage us all to make active not advertised choices.

Part ll Eating Alaska Inventory

For Eating Alaska, our goal is to take part of the movement for a fair food system that ensures access to good food is not a privilege, but a right. The way we sustain ourselves also needs to minimize our impact on the environment and make sense for our bodies, our families and cultures.

In 2010, with our grassroots projects, we've:
-Shared Eating Alaska with communities, schools, campuses. public libraries, museums, festivals, as part of environmental, food, and sustainability events and conversations in Scotland, Poland, Croatia and across Canada and the U.S.
- Released the film to PBS to approximately 240 stations with 277 airings from Anchorage to Philadelphia to Austin.
-Completed a final DVD with chapters, extras, audio descriptions and close captioning,

2011 Eating Alaska use includes:
-Earth Day Release to PBS

Some of our 2011 Screenings:
-Slow Food in the Tetons February 7, 2010
-Northern Conservation Film Festival
Tok, January 28th
Kotzebue, Feb, 16-24th
Kodiak March. March 23-25th
Skagway. April 3-4th

- Earthday Screening and Speaking Tour to Colleges in the Midwest
(details forthcoming)

-Wenatchee Museum Environmental Festival Screening

Part III Food Safety/Food Policy/Local Eating 2010
Eating local is on the rise, strengthening communities, farmers and consumers. 6,100 farmers markets are now operating across the country, a 16 % increase from last year. Click here to learn more. Plus:

- Food safety reared its ugly head with a large egg recall. And food-safety and local-food issues stirred up with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, because of disruption in fishing and concerns about contamination of any seafood harvested from the gulf.

- It seems as if The United States Food and Drug Agency has approved GMO salmon---fish spawned from genetically engineered salmon eggs to be allowed for use as food. These salmon grow into full-sized fish in half the time that it would take a regular salmon, and could become the first "transgenic" or genetically engineered animals to be approved for human consumption. While digging around for updates on when and if this blue revolution will impact our plates, our health and wild stocks has not led to any clear answer or updates, we can talk a bit about GMO's.

What's so bad about GMO's? We know that scientifically derived foods have genes specifically designed to put an end to reproductive ability and produce pesticides continuously.The main GMO foods are soy, corn, canola, cotton (cottonseed oil), sugar beets (which are made into sugar), Hawaiian papaya and all products derived from them, like soy sauce, tofu, and canola oil. Other GMO crops are zucchini, yellow squash, and soon likely salmon and rice from China.
Want to know more? Click here

-On Nov. 30th, the Senate passed the Food Safety Modernization Act.. The Food Safety bill contained basic protections for small-scale farmers. However, a procedural error has stalled the bill in the House and now Big Ag lobbyists are working to stop the Tester and Manager amendments, which exempt farmers that have sales of less than $500,000 and sell within 275 miles of their farm.

- President Barack Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 on Dec. 13. A big part of the bill supplies more money to the reduced-price and free lunch programs in public schools to help keep the nation's children fed. The bill also addresses nutrition standards in other ways. Notably, it gives the U.S. Department of Agriculture the authority to set nutrition standards on food served at schools, including food in vending machines.

Food Matters in 2011, a few issues to keep an eye on
-The impact of the economy on hunger and nutrition. There may be indicators of recovery. but is it trickling down to women, children, families and the un or underemployed? Regionally we're hearing of an increase in demand for food stamps and WIC and we'll add some stats on that soon.
- Struggles over food safety. The bill passed in congress, but how will be funded?
-The U.S. Department of Agriculture will issue a new food guide. Will it make sense/ Will it be useful?
- The FDA will issue new front-of-package label regulations to show nutritional value of food at a glance.
What will corporations allow or agree too?

- Farm bill advocates will be mobilizing. As Marion Nestle comments "You might think it too early to be worrying about the 2012 Farm Bill, but I've already gotten position papers analyzing commodity and food-assistance issues from groups gearing up to lobby Congress to bring agricultural policy in line with nutrition and public health policy." Click here to read more from Nestle.

Ellen Frankenstein, on 01.03.11 @ 11:53AKT [link]