University of Alaska Southeast

Coming to Terms with Northern Foods, Northern Futures

Juneau, AK
Date of Press Release: September 3, 2008


The University of Alaska Southeast kicks off the 2008 Evening at Egan Lecture series with a look at climate and socioeconomic impacts on the future of northern food systems. “Coming to terms with Northern Foods, Northern Futures” is the title of the lecture by Dr. Craig Gerlach, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Gerlach’s presentation is at 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 5 in the UAS Egan Lecture Hall.


Photo of Dr. Craig Gerlach“These are times of rapid change for rural and urban Alaskan communities,” said Gerlach. “Cities, towns and villages across the state are responding to social and environmental change in ways that are regionally different to be sure, but the dramatic rise in the price of food and fuel costs over the past ten years or so has driven the cost of living in bush and urban Alaska to the point where health and community stability are difficult to maintain.”

Gerlach’s recent work focuses on nutritional ecology, community health, and the restoration of traditional food systems in interior northern Alaska. Emphasis is on the impact of natural resource development and climate change on the nutritional and biochemical qualities of wild plant and animal foods, including contaminants.

“In many rural communities, people are in a nutritional transition from local to industrial produced processed foods,” said Gerlach. This leads to health problems as evidenced by nutritional biochemistry research.

With case studies drawn from interior Alaska, this presentation will cover topics related to food and water security, community health, and rural community food system innovation to show positive responses to change, including the reinvigoration of local gardening and farming by local people. “Kids are helping to provide food for elders,” said Gerlach.

The discussion will include an historical overview of Alaska Native farming along the Yukon River, and review new village supported farming and gardening initiatives in a few Alaska Native communities who are interested in local food production as a way to complement to subsistence activities and foster community self-reliance.

A community development component includes the design and implementation of a Village Supported Farming Initiative that is based on a Community Supported/Shared Agriculture model, with emphasis on village gardens as a rural laboratory for training in ecosystem science. The Sustainability and Stewardship Alaska Research Program is currently funded by the National Science Foundation.

The UAS Evening at Egan lecture series is held every Friday at 7 p.m. through November 21. The September 12 Evening at Egan lecture is “In the Company of Ravens” by raven and crow scholar John Marzluff from the University of Washington. It will be held at the UAS Egan Library.Visit the Evening at Egan Website for all scheduled lectures.

Contacts:

Katie Bausler

University of Alaska Southeast

(907) 796-6530