Last Wednesday (4-1-15), eight legislators introduced a bill that would allow Alaskans to donate sport- and subsistence-harvested fish and game to non-profit meal programs. Under House Bill 179, schools, senior centers, and other non-profits could legally serve donated fish and game, such as moose, venison, caribou, and salmon. Alaska law presently bars the sale of such foods.
Sitka Democrat Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins is the primary sponsor of HB 179. He says it’s about writing legislation to catch up with the times.
“Out in the bush, a lot of people in Western or Northern Alaska will donate caribou to the senior center, so that elders can eat caribou stew and that happens very frequently,” said Kreiss-Tomkins. “That’s technically not simpatico with the rule of the law. So this bill basically brings what happens in Alaskan communities – which is people coming together and donating fish and game for children or for elders – and makes that compatible with what Alaska’s laws say.”
Kreiss-Tomkins says the bill also responds to a statewide movement within schools to eat food that’s healthier and locally sourced. As examples, he mentioned Sitka’s Fish to Schools program and community supported agriculture in the Mat-Su Valley.
The bill had seven co-sponsors when it was read across the floor. They include Reps. Cathy Muñoz (R-Juneau), Charisse Millett (R-Anchorage), Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan), Louise Stutes (R-Kodiak), Neal Foster (D-Nome), Sam Kito III (D-Juneau), and Tammie Wilson (R-North Pole).
Kreiss-Tomkins considered such early sponsorship unusual, but indicative of the bill’s widespread support.
“We’ve sponsored a number of different pieces of legislation but this is one we’d like to see pass in the law quickly,” said Kreiss-Tomkins. “We’re on that path right now. So I think that’s why [this bill] got a little more attention. It’s got hearings coming up, it’s got a huge list of co-sponsors, and it’s a Kumbaya Alaska issue. Everyone gets it.”
HB 179 is in hearings this week.