This week is the first Harvest Moon Local Foods Week on the Kenai Peninsula. There are events going on throughout the next several days focusing on local food, restaurants and stores.
“Local foods promotes better nutrition, better community connections, appreciation for local resources, nature and improvement of local economics,” Kenai Peninsula Food Bank Executive Director Linda Swarner said.
Swarner made a presentation to the Borough Assembly last month where she talked about the importance of buying locally. At that meeting, Borough Mayor Mike Navarre officially proclaimed September 16-22 as a local foods week.
Swarner said purchasing foods locally grown or harvested isn’t just about freshness. It builds community.
“Instead of having a single relationship to a big supermarket, you develop smaller connections to more food sources. Eating locally… connects you to a larger world,” she said.
Kyra Wagner is with Sustainable Homer. She said food security is another reason to focus on locally-produced-or-harvested items.
“If there’s ever any problems with the system and the truck doesn’t come down from Anchorage, knowing that you have local suppliers is super important,” she said.
Wagner said growing and purchasing locally is not without its challenges, but working through those issues is at the core of Alaska pride. Though, she said she understands that dedicating your attentions to growing your own food, or religiously going to a farmer’s market or farm stand isn’t exactly for everyone.
“It’s really important to tap into whatever aspect you can support. So, for example, let’s say you’re too busy to grow or to buy at the farmer’s market, what about the agency you work for? Do you support local vendors when you go to buy food for an event? There’s a lot of ways that you can support local even if you’re not doing it daily in your life,” she said.
But for those who may be looking for a little guidance to bring local foods into your everyday life: Saskia Esslinger will be sharing her experience of having her family eat only Alaska-grown-or-harvested foods for one year. Wagner said Esslinger’s “Alaska Foods Challenge” presentation will be on the central and southern peninsula. She’s in Kenai Wednesday, Kasilof Thursday and Homer on Friday.
“Yeah, she had some challenges. So she’ll be talking about what those were and how they dealt with them. Everything from breads and grains, we don’t grow wheat in Alaska, so how do you deal with that? They were very dedicated and very thoughtful. So it’s really interesting to see how they dealt with it. And then after the challenge was over, how their food habits changed back or what they stuck with,” Wagner said.
There also will be tours of Homer’s Meadowmere Farms over the weekend along with The Taste of Homer on Saturday. Central peninsula residents can attend a Food Film Festival over the weekend. And Swarner said places like Veronica’s Café and Mykel’s Restaurant will have locally-sourced foods available throughout the week.
“Don’t forget the breweries, too,” she said.