HB 179 would legalize the donation of fish and game, harvested through sport or subsistence, to non-profit meal programs, such as schools and senior centers. Robert Woolsey/KCAW photo
Last Wednesday, Sitka Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins 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.
As 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. And that’s technically not simpatico with the rule of the law,” he said. “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 shared agriculture in the Mat-Su Valley.
The bill had seven co-sponsors when it was read across the House floor. They included Kodiak Republican Louise Stutes, Juneau Republican Cathy Muñoz, Juneau Democrat Sam Kito, Anchorage Republican Charisse Millett, Ketchikan Independent Dan Ortiz, Nome Democrat Neal Foster, and North Pole Republican Tammie Wilson
Kreiss-Tomkins considered such early co-sponsorship as 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. And we’re on that path right now,” he said. “So I think that’s why it’s 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 has hearings scheduled in the Fisheries and Resources committees.