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Alaska Food Protection Task Force Meeting Minutes

In Attendance

Chris LaCroix (Copper River Seafood), Claudia Coles (SPA), Joe Logan (Trident Seafoods), Lorinda Lhotka (DEC), Amy Seitz (Alaska Farm Bureau), Bobbie McDonald (DEC), Nikolai Wendel (Ocean Beauty), Cindy Luna (Ocean Beauty), Rachael Miller (Alaska Food Policy Council (AFPC)), Robbi Mixon (Alaska Farmers Market Association/AFPC), Monique Moore (Icicle Seafoods), Tracy Hare (Icicle Seafoods), Steve Lacy (Fred Meyers), Sharon Walluk (Herbalist and Grower), Sarah Lewis (CES), Julie Cascio (CES), Sarah Oates (CHARR), Eve Van Dommelen (Food Bank of Alaska), Dr. Bob Gerlach (DEC), Dr. Sarah Coburn (DEC), Carlos Romero (Denali Universal Services), Dr. Brian Himelbloom (UAF - Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center (retired)), Jeremy Botz (Fish and Game), Jeremy Ayers (DEC), Cara Durr (Food Bank of Alaska), LE Hegge (North Pacific Seafoods), Thomas Koloski (DMVA), Kim Nasados, Kathy Balcom (Icicle Seafoods), Dan Tew (Yum Brand), Melissa Chlupach (UAA Dietetics and Nutrition), Jo Dawson (DEED CNS), Ryan Wiswesser (Chugach Chocolates/AFPC), Edward Muezenberger (Alaska General Seafoods), Virginia Ng (SPA), Yuki Goto (Leader Creek Fisheries), Nenad Josific (Ekuk Fisheries), Tina Boggs (Deep Sea Fisheries), Michael Kohan (ASMI), Alyse Brindle (Coastal Villages Region Fund), Brehan Kohl (DEC), Ytamar Rodriguez (DEC), Nathan Bruns (DEC)

Opening Remarks - Kim Stryker, Program Manager

Welcome. Asked presenters on agenda to present on what is going well/not with COVID response? Everyone is experiencing a lot with this unprecedented event. This is the largest meeting turnout that we have ever had for our Food Protection Task Force.

Member Updates

Tom Koloski, Unified Command Critical Infrastructure- Health Mandates (#10)

March 24, all persons arriving in-state will self-quarantine. Critical infrastructure is allowed to work during the quarantine. Started protective plans, led into mandate 12 (travel restrictions within state). Mandate 11 = social distancing (10 people or less in the building at the same time/noncritical required to close). Fisheries (harvesting/processing/monitoring) are all considered critical. They can work during the quarantine period and travel between communities after the employer submits a protective plan to emergency ops. Received over 2000 protective plans so far. Prioritizing fishery types before thousands show up in the upcoming weeks. Then statewide corporations -> retail -> mom and pops. Once a protective plan submitted, get a confirmation that they are good to go until they hear back from the state. Once reviewed, they respond with suggestions, etc. When they can, State contacts the local area if possible to share plans. Upcoming mandate soon to mandate all vessels so they don’t have to create one each. APIB stores, shipping for stores, FEMA Region 10 monitoring grocery supply lines.

Claudia Coles – Seafood products

The Seafood Products Association is trying to be active in helping facilitate questions. Funneling and facilitating questions to the correct organization. If you are interested in joining her updated email her at Concerned about what she sees in the pork plants in lower 48. Any lessons learned? Tom Koloski - not looking, falls more under Kim Stryker's sanitation program. Kim will check into it.

Sarah Oates – Restaurants and hospitality industry (ALASKA CHARR)

Bars/ restaurants largely shut down and totally in crisis mode. A lot have completely shifted business models to do to go orders/delivery. 3rd party delivery do they have regulations? What are the requirements? 3rd party delivery companies do not have the training and other things in place like temperature control. How can we preserve public health in this aspect? Looking at phased reopening for restaurants. Discussion about hand sanitizer, single-use utensils/condiments, sanitizing, PPE, etc. How will restaurants get these items when they are all competing? Concern from members who also own hotels. Folks enter in through Canada and they are not quarantining. How do we get the information from those operators?

Ryan Wiswesser – Chugach Chocolates – Food Manufacturing

Enhanced focus on food safety and a big pivot on business processes. Chugach Chocolate only had a few big stores as customers and mainly relied on boutiques (which are now closed). Now trying to go directly to consumers instead of wholesale. The company had a lot of inventory going into busy summertime. Now trying to figure out what to do with inventory.

Cara Durr – Food Bank of Alaska

Statewide food bank (200 partners to distribute food through). Seen a huge increase in food demand. The client choice model (similar to grocery store shopping) historically was done. Now they are doing prepacked boxes. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday at old Sam’s club in Anchorage. 300 some boxes on Wed, 500 on Thursday. National Guard helping crowd control at distribution centers. Federal aid will start in July. Fundraising has been strong. Purchasing Co-ops, orders coming in weekly. If orders stay on track they should have 6 weeks of food on hand as long as demand doesn’t rise. 3-5 day turnaround on applications. Can people still donate food? Yes, however, they are encouraging monetary donations due to the new pre boxing.

Jo Dawson - Department of Education Child Nutrition Services

Received a waiver from USDA 1 week before schools closed to do non-congregate. Approved 42 schools with hundreds of distribution sites. A lot of variation (meals per day, week). Seeing high participation in rural schools, much lower in urban areas. Funded through meal counts. Financial issues will be coming soon. When school closes, most of the programs will shut down. We will see feeding issues in the next 3 to 4 weeks. Promoting serving food safely. Trying to increase training in those across the state. Approved for disaster feeding in April. Served 6000 individuals through this program. Only a few are approved to do this.

Steve Lacy – Fred Meyer – Supermarkets/retail food stores

Fred Meyer working with Safeway on the policy. Floor stickers everywhere where lines form (check out, pharmacy, deli, etc). Plexiglas put up in register/pharmacy areas. Sanitizing carts, pin pads every 30 minutes. Cart wipes and sanitizers available for public use. Closed all self-service operations (salad bars, donut areas, bulk bins, etc.). On cutting edge of making these policies since WA area was affected first. Requiring all employees to wear surgical masks. Social distancing officer, sole job 8 hours a day, coach public to minimize contact. Policy when associates test positive for COVID. 45 Fred Meyer employees have tested positive. Only 1 or 2 in AK. Have a 3rd party come in and sanitize the area of the store that is affected. They are sent home and self-quarantine. Communicate with all store members to be transparent. Offer 2 weeks of paid leave if they want to quarantine. Lots of signage in stores, every 15 min run announcements. Limited amount of customers to 50% of the capacity of stores. Shortages seem to be easing somewhat and supplies are returning to normal. Worried about meat plants shutting down. Return to work policy is approved only after a required note from a doctor. Floor monitors have been positively received.

Carlos Romero Doyon Universal - Labor Camps

Provide services on North Slope. Camps vary in size (1100 to 60 workers). Safety is a core value at Doyon. Overview of food safety already in place before COVID. Not required for HAACP plan but always have one in place. Residents are required to wear single-use gloves. Required to use hand sanitizer before donning gloves. ServSafe for many employees. Not just meeting DEC requirements but extended knowledge to many jobs pertinent to the program. No personal items allowed in the food area. No cell phones. Mandatory safety meetings before each shift. Regular sanitizing schedules.

Post-COVID – enhanced practices. Directing staff to avoid contact with other staff. The executive chef stays away from everyone. All sanitizing is exceeding recommendations. Changing traffic through the kitchen, warehouses, and dining areas. 6-foot policy for grab and go (spike) areas. 8 people at a time in the room. Have a dedicated employee to enforce rules. 6-foot markers placed in lines. Employees required to wear masks and gloves. Only 4 employees on service line at a time. 1 employee allowed in the cooler at a time. Cut out all nonessential traffic in kitchens. Lessons learned – stocking, used to keep 2 weeks on hand. Post-COVID now stocking more. Logistics is very difficult for these remote areas. Very challenging to promote social distancing in such a remote enclosed area. Will continue to be proactive.

Robbi Mixon – Alaska Farmers Market Association

Running safe markets this summer so folks have access to local foods. Assess how neighboring states were doing farmers markets. All markets are different, one model won’t work. Recommendations for safety for farmers markets. Shopping should be alone, socially distancing if not possible. Challenges from recent AFMA video conference: craft vendors upset that they are largely being left out. Organizers upset with differences between markets and store/supermarket regulations. Friday 4/24 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. hosting best practices for markets with DEC and multiple organizations.

Amy Seitz– Alaska Farm Bureau

Agriculture industry trying to adjust. Alaska only produces 5% of the food it consumes. Even though the Canada border is shut down, food shipments allowed to pass through. Farmers hurt by the closure of restaurants. Lack of infrastructure (storage, processing). Lots of uncertainty about this summer. Farmers trying to figure out what to plant and how much. How will it be distributed? Will it sell? Trying to come up with a long-range plan to eventually produce 50% of food consumed by Alaska. Federal COVID aid not really helping Alaskan farmers at this point.

Rachael Miller - Alaska Food Policy Council

Connect, inform, and advocate. Sharing information during COVID. Talking about working with Extension services. Wants to ramp up food production in Alaska. Even down to individual household level. Wants to host a webinar to share information. Wrote policy letters to Lisa Murkowski and other federal officials. Happy to write letters of support for grants. Serves as a Fiscal sponsor 501c. Hoping this is a wakeup call for the importance of buying/producing locally.

Due to the number of attendees and presenters, we were unable to make it through the entire agenda. The FSS Program will send out an update regarding recent activities with COVID-19 and program updates.

Next Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for July, but the FSS program will consider meeting sooner to keep everyone up to date on COVID-19 response.

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