More than a year into the war in Ukraine, Alaska’s government is doing its part by sending aid in the form of Alaskan seafood. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is handling the state’s food distribution.
Bruce Schactler is ASMI’s food aid program and development director. He says while ASMI doesn’t own any of the seafood, they’ve helped manage the state’s aid programs.
That includes sending over $300,000 worth of Alaskan seafood, or about 3,600 cases of canned pink salmon, to Ukraine.
“We do things on behalf of the legislature, the State of Alaska,” he said. “Most recently, at the request of the legislature, we sent three containers of canned salmon over to Ukraine.”
When the state government decides to send aid, they set a budget and ASMI solicits bids from companies across Alaska. Companies then bid on the sale and offer stock at competitive rates to ensure a maximized amount of product.
The state has aided in several disasters over the years, and through ASMI has sent food to the Philippines after devastating typhoons and areas suffering food insecurity in Africa and the Middle East as well.
Schactler says ASMI has a history of running the state’s aid programs.
“ASMI’s been facilitating humanitarian aid for (the) last 20 years,” he said.
ASMI was asked about domestic food insecurity at a recent presentation to the state House Fisheries Special Committee. Particularly as the state has been slow to send food stamps or process applications since August.
Schactler says ASMI would be interested in sending food to those in need across the state, but they need funding and approval from the legislature first.
“I’ve discussed it with the state department and I’ve discussed it with a few members of Congress in Washington, D.C., but I have not been contacted or heard anything further than that,” he said.
If the state decides to purchase domestic seafood for Alaskans in this year’s supplemental budget, aid could be sent to food banks as soon as next week. But if aid isn’t included until the 2024 regular budget, folks would have to wait at least until July.