We’re happy to report that our freight is finally moving again, and we’ve been working hard to get the store shelves stocked full. On Wednesday, we received 9 pallets of groceries (as opposed to our usual 3 or 4). Busy stockers are happy stockers!
All of Alaska took notice when grocery shelves began emptying out last month. The breakdown of a cargo vessel at the port in Tacoma disrupted food deliveries to Alaska. When other stores were running out of meat, we were stocking our case with local beef and pork. And while we did run low on fruits and veggies, we took the opportunity to deep clean our shelves.
Many people wondered why we were willing to talk to the media when the other stores wouldn’t or couldn’t. It’s simple: Our Owners are our friends and neighbors, not faceless shareholders who live far away. We are a part of this community, and we feel that it is important to share information with the community.
You’ve probably heard that 95% of our food must be barged and trucked in from Outside. It’s estimated that we have a 7-day supply of food in the state. Now that deliveries are getting back to a more normal schedule, it’s time to think about the implications. How can we Alaskans be more food secure and self-sufficient?
Here are some ideas.
- Support your local farmers. When you buy locally grown food, our farmers grow more of it, and we all benefit.
- Learn to preserve food when its abundant, whether by freezing, canning or pickling it. The UAF Cooperative Extension Service is a great resource.
- Keep a good supply of long-lasting staples on hand, such as rice, dried beans, powdered milk, canned goods.
- Grow your own garden. It will soon be time to start your seeds.
- Learn about where, when and how your food is grown and how it gets to you, so that you can make conscious, informed decisions about the things you buy.
Co-op Market exists, in part, to provide a viable marketplace for local agriculture, and we are doing that. Alaskans do love Alaskan products, and demand can quickly outstrip supply.
For example, we sell out of local eggs almost as soon as we get them. We would sell more if we could get more, but many small producers can’t afford to follow packaging regulations and other food safety rules. We need to find a way to build an agricultural infrastructure to make this easier and less expensive.
With the help of a USDA grant, we will soon begin work with UAF on a study to determine the feasibility of a mobile poultry processing facility. Such a facility would make it possible for us to sell local poultry at the co-op. Without a certified processor in Alaska, we currently cannot do this.
As a co-op, we believe that cooperation may hold the key to many of our food supply issues in Alaska. Local farmers could join together and create a cooperative kitchen certified for commercial use. Sharing the costs, farmers could create value-added goods, such as frozen fruits and vegetables. This would expand the market: We can’t buy and sell these goods unless they’re produced in a certified facility.
Seeing empty shelves in the stores was a shock to many of us. But it was also good for us. More Alaskans are aware of food security, and we’re talking about it. This is how change begins.