USDA Grants Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association Funding to Conduct Seafood and Workforce Safety Assessment of Local Seafood Industry

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USDA Grants Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association Funding to Conduct Seafood and Workforce Safety Assessment of Local Seafood Industry

December 24, 2021
Friday afternoon

(SitNews) Sitka, Alaska – The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) has announced that it has been selected by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to receive a System Partnership grant regional food (RFSP) within the framework of the marketing of the local agriculture of the Agriculture Marketing Service Program (LAMPE). ALFA was one of 30 projects selected in 24 states to receive an RFSP grant and will use the funding to foster new partnerships around Alaska that help build a more resilient regional food system, particularly with regard to the access to local seafood and the development of the seafood industry workforce.

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The impacts of Covid-19 have highlighted long-standing issues with workforce development and food insecurity in Alaska. The seafood industry is the backbone of coastal economies, but relies on outside labor for processing, marketing and shipping. Quarantine requirements have resulted in significant labor shortages and high costs. In addition, currently less than 1 percent of seafood caught in Alaska remains in Alaska for the benefit of the local economy. Alaska is one of the five most food insecure states in the country. 95% of Alaska’s $ 2 billion in food purchases are imported and 14% of Alaskans, 20% of whom are children, face food insecurity.

In response to the pandemic and food insecurity in Alaska, in March 2020, the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association formed a statewide coalition of nonprofits, tribal organizations, d ‘military organizations, towns and boroughs, foundations, fishermen and seafood processors to tackle food insecurity and workforce development challenges. The coalition was made possible through funding from Catch Together; a non-profit organization that supports innovative conservation and fisherman-led efforts that address long-term access to local fishery resources; and the Alaska Community Foundation. This initiative, known as the Seafood Donation Program, provided allocations and support to the seafood industry and deployed $ 2.5 million to purchase local seafood for distribution, providing more than 630,000 free meals of Alaskan seafood for individuals and families facing food insecurity.

With funding from the USDA, ALFA will develop and implement a two-year evaluation that examines the 2020 Seafood Donation Program and the feasibility of expanding it into an ongoing program. In addition, the assessment will review current seafood industry workforce development programs to identify gaps and barriers that prevent Alaskans from participating in the fruit industry. The project will culminate with the development of a feasibility study for a 10-year statewide seafood distribution and workforce development plan, with an emphasis on the cultural relevance of seafood and the service to marginalized communities.

“We are honored to move this project forward and to help lay the groundwork for new projects and programs in Alaska that could help make our communities healthier and more resilient,” said Linda Behnken, Executive Director of Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. “With this support from the USDA, we will be able to work with a wide range of partners to assess where the greatest needs and opportunities lie to ensure that our local food systems are better prepared for future disruptions such as COVID-19, and that we have the tools in place to encourage local employment in our seafood industry.

As a ‘partnership’ grant, the ALFA project will rely heavily on the engagement of various stakeholders and will be guided by a formal steering committee comprising representatives of the Alaskan tribes, seafood distributors. , national and state foundation and philanthropic leaders, leaders, communities and politicians. leaders as well as youth representatives. Some of these steering committee members will include founding partners of the Seafood Donation Program, including Sam Schimmel of Kenai who has helped lead several distributions of salmon to Native Alaskan families in the communities of Anchorage and Fairbanks. .

“I am really excited to be a part of this project and to help create new local solutions to some very complex problems,” said Sam Schimmel. “We know these needs don’t go away, so this project is an important opportunity for all of us to come together, share information, and figure out how we can ensure our native Alaskan communities continue to have access to food.” indigenous people who keep us tied to our traditions and cultures.

“There is no doubt that the Alaskan seafood industry faces many workforce challenges, from an aging fleet to a lack of new hires. in fisheries, ”said Norm Pillen, president of Seafood Producers Cooperative in Sitka, Alaska. “I look forward to seeing what we learn from this project and how it can help advance the conversations already underway about the future of the Alaskan seafood industry and our coastal communities. ”

Funding is made possible through grant programs administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) under the Local Agriculture Marketing Program (LAMP): the Farmers Markets and Local Food Promotion Programs (FMLFPP) and the Regional Partnerships for Food Systems (RFSP).

Edited by: Mary Kauffman, SitNews

News source:

Alaska Longline Association

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