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a vacation in Alaska, America's icebox

Traveling To Alaska, America’s icebox

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Angoon school asks Coast Guard to make food delivery during ferry shutdown

was written by Henry Leasia, KHNS – Haines , 2020-02-27 00:53:33

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Angoon, pictured here in 2017, is home to about 460 people. (Photo by KCAW Raven Radio)

Some of Alaska’s school cafeteria food is supplied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure minimum nutrition standards. But the federal government only brings it as far as Seattle. From there the state of Alaska transports it to more than a dozen hubs. 

“Those 13 locations are based on population centers where we have more students,” says Jo Dawson, the Childhood Nutrition Program Manager for Alaska’s Department of Education and Early Development.  

Once the federally supplied food reaches those 13 drop points in Alaska, schools in remote areas of the state transport it the rest of the way to their communities. In Southeast Alaska, some schools have used the Alaska Marine Highway System to transport the food from Juneau. But that’s not happening now.

Regional service has been shut down since late January. Minimal service isn’t expected to return until next month. 

“Most of the districts haven’t been affected,” says Dawson. “We’ve had two, which are Chatham and Hoonah, that have been the most affected because they did use the ferry system, not only for the USDA foods, but for their regular commercial foods as well.”

Those districts include schools in the remote communities of Angoon, Gustavus, Klukwan and Hoonah. 

Chatham School District Superintendent Bruce Houck told KHNS that USDA foods bound for Angoon were stuck in a warehouse in Juneau for weeks. He declined to speak on tape, but in an email said the school reached out to the U.S. Coast Guard last month, requesting they deliver those goods to Angoon.

Chief Petty Officer Mathew Schofield is a Coast Guard spokesman based in Juneau. He says Angoon’s request was denied.

“If we were to deliver things based on a humanitarian need, it’s typically because there would be no commercial avenues that are available. In this particular case, the Coast Guard has been in direct contact with the school district and staff there and essentially pointed them to different resources that are available commercially,” Schofield says. 

Merchants on the ground say it’s not so easy. Shayne Thompson would know. He runs Angoon Trading Company, the main store in town. Right now Angoon is receiving goods by seaplane—at 85 cents a pound. Thompson has also partnered with other residents to charter landing craft to make deliveries. 

“We don’t have a proper barge landing here in Angoon, so we have opted to enlist landing craft when we have a load that is big enough to bring over, which since October has been about every three weeks,” Thompson says. 

But it hasn’t been consistent. That means it’s hard to keep perishables stocked.

“Fresh produce items and stuff that we would normally replenish every week we run out of and our dairy and that sort of thing we run out of too,” Thompson says. 

Chatham School District officials say they had to fly fresh produce to Angoon’s school due to the shortage of food for their lunch program. 

The ferry Tazlina is expected to resume runs to Angoon and Hoonah in March. That should bring some relief to both the schools and merchants. 

In the meantime, food drives organized in Juneau and Sitka are sending donations to the villages cut off by the shutdown of the Alaska Marine Highway System.

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traveling to Alaska

A Visit To Alaska, the Last Frontier

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Tongass National Forest. The Tongass is actually the largest national forest within the United States. It received its name from the Tongass Clan of the Tlingit native people and goes back to 1902 when President Theodore Roosevelt created the Alexander Archipelago Forest Reserve. In 1908 the forest was re-named and expanded and today the 16.9 million-acre Tongass National Forest extends from the Pacific to the great inland ice fields that border British Columbia and from the southern tip of Prince of Wales Island to Malaspina Glacier five hundred miles to the north. About 80 % of Southeast Alaska is in Tongass and with its thousands of islands, fjords and bays the national forest has 11,000 miles of coastline. Tongass’ enormous coastal rain forest consists of towering hemlock, spruce and red and yellow cedar. The undergrowth below thegiant conifers is composed of young evergreens and shrubs including devil’s club, blueberry and huckleberry. Moss and ferns cover the ground, and lichens adorn numerous trees and rocks.

Wildlife is abundant throughout Tongass. Sitka blacktail deer and it’s two main predators, wolf and brown bear, are located here. Black bear are common as well as mountain goats and some moose. Marine mammals observed along the shores include Dall and harbor porpoises, seals and humpback, minke and orca whales and an increasing population of sea otters. The rich waters teem with fish such as halibut and all 5 species of Pacific salmon. More bald eagles live in this region than in any other spot in the world. While home to the world’s main temperate rain forest, practically fifty percent of Tongass is covered by ice, water, wetlands and rock. It’s most popular ice floe is the Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska’s “Drive-in glacier” because it is just thirteen miles from downtown Juneau along a paved road. A boat trip from Petersburg or Wrangell can bring you near the face of LeConte Glacier, the southernmost tidewater glacier on the continent. Merely thirty miles north of Yakutat is Hubbard Glacier, the longest tidewater glacier in the world and very easily Alaska’s most active. The 76-mile-long glacier has crossed Russell Fjord several times, most recently in 2008. The rip tides and currents that flow in front of the 8-mile-wide glacier are so powerful they lead to Hubbard to calve almost constantly. The Tongass features 19 wilderness areas, including the 545-sq-mile Russell Fjord Wilderness, in addition to Admiralty Island National Monument and Misty Fiords National Monument. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve and the general area surrounding Haines and Skagway aren’t part of the national forest.

a trip to Tongass National Forest in Alaska, the Last Frontier

A Trip To Tongass National Forest in Alaska