For many of us, the holidays are a time to gather with our friends and family, share a bountiful meal and celebrate all that we have to be thankful for this year. Unfortunately, despite the progress we’ve made in ensuring that families have access to healthy meals, there are still millions of Americans who will struggle to put food on the table this holiday season.
According to Feeding America's Map the Meal Gap study, one in seven people in Alaska will experience food insecurity this year.
No Alaska family should have to choose between putting wholesome, safe and nutritious food on the table and keeping the heat running. However, that’s the choice facing thousands of our neighbors right here in our backyard – almost 100,000 people in fact.
My fellow Alaska chefs and the farmers we work with have dedicated our careers to providing customers with high-quality ingredients and delicious meals. Many of the same farmers and producers supply meat, grains, produce and other items to grocery stores and farmers markets across the state where they are available to everyone. This includes families who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In Alaska, the program helps feed nearly 90,000 people. That’s 12 percent of our population, or about one in eight Alaskans.
We all rely on good food and farm policies to ensure that our food is safe, our land and water are protected and that our local food economies continue to grow. There are more than 750 working farms in Alaska, and the number of these hearty and hard-working people are increasing by the year (unlike some states that are losing farms). Still, 95 percent of Alaska food products are sourced out of state, leaving us all food-insecure.
The Farm Bill, America’s preeminent piece of food and agriculture legislation, supports our food system and the farm families in our state. Unfortunately, Congress allowed the Farm Bill to expire, freezing a host of programs and provisions that promote sustainable agricultural practices, contribute to thriving communities and give parents the freedom to make the best food choices for themselves and their families.
While the House and Senate have each passed Farm Bill measures and the two chambers recently reached a tentative deal, many of the details are unknown and uncertain.
In the coming days, Congress is expected to finalize the Farm Bill. We want legislation we all can be proud of, that keeps our families and our environment safe. That means protecting programs that equip farmers with the tools they need to proactively care for their land. It also means assuring Americans they are eating the healthiest, most nutritious food available.
Together, as we celebrate all that we have to be grateful for this holiday season, let’s continue to build a world-class food system that works well for our families, friends and farmers.
Kirsten Dixon is a passionate culinary student, educator, and an avid gardener.
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