Food Summit sparks debate on quality of food at UAA

Should people be able to eat what they value? UAA’s Sustainability Club hosted a panel discussion in the Student Union April 7 to talk about the quality of food at UAA and the state of Alaska.

Amy Petit, panel discussion member and former Division of Agriculture member, manages the Alaska Grown marketing program and is a member on the Alaska Food Policy Council. Her goal is to get more Alaskans connected to their foods and to recognize that the logo is more than just a T-shirt.

“People are disconnected from their food in Alaska. We have a lot of work to do and a lot of opportunity. It’s important that we continue to have these discussions on food. I’m really glad that the Sustainability Club at UAA decided to have this forum It’s a start, and it’s a good one,” Petit said. “In addition to planning for this, I got a call last week from Providence hospital, and they are reworking their menus for the next cycle and were curious on how they could incorporate Alaska Grown into the menu. It’s great, it’s huge, it’s amazing how we have people in charge of food at UAA is here at this table and wants to have this discussion with you.”

David Weaver, Director of Housing and member of Dining and Conference Services, joined the panel to share his opinion on Alaska Grown. His job overlooks food services on campus. During his panel discussion, Weaver told a story about a trip to Albania and how ultimately, the people of the country live healthy lives because they grow almost all of their food.

“I’m not an expert on food science, but how we choose the food we pick is extremely important. When I think about sustainable food, I think about it in a way that isn’t just about culture — it’s about who has access to the food. Who is struggling? Who does not have enough food to sustain themselves? It’s also related to how the food is affecting our environment,” Weaver said.

Jason Smith, a new indoor farmer, is optimistic about the state’s future in terms of food.

“We started shopping for organic. We did online research and I wanted to start making the shift to lean to more healthy produce. We became very aware of the cost in the grocery store. I’m a thrifty guy, so I started a garden like a window planter,” Smith said. “I tried to grow cilantro. I waited six weeks for just a little bit of cilantro. There has to be a better way. Eventually, I went back to school and wrapped up my degree at UAA and I started doing more research. I saw an opportunity in town and took it — and five years later, here I am on a panel for food sustainability.”

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For more information about upcoming events concerning sustainability in Alaska, contact the UAA Sustainability Club at sustainuaa@gmail.com.