Alaska food program scrapped from schools

The Nutritional Alaska Foods to Schools, or NAFS, pilot program that brought locally sourced foods to school meal menus will not continue into the 2016-2017 school year. The loss of funding results from budget decreases related to the state’s current fiscal crisis, according to Jenny Martin, legislative aide to Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer.

Starting in the 2013-2014 school year, the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development provided funding to districts to purchase foods from Alaska growers or Alaska waters and fisheries, said Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Student Nutrition Services administrator Dean Hamburg. The funding for NAFS is separate from federal funding for school meals, which supports programs such as the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, or FFVP.

Unlike the federally funded FFVP that bases participation on schools’ poverty levels, the funding for NAFS was distributed equally across the school district, Hamburg said. Students saw the results of NAFS on their plates approximately 18 times each school year. 

“In general, the NAFS support was reflected in a twice-per month support in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District-United States Department of Agriculture National School Lunch Program menu practices,” Hamburg said.

Alaska’s Department of Commerce distributed $3 million each year during the 2013-2015 fiscal years to districts across the state for NAFS, totaling to $9 million in program funding, Martin said. 

Over the course of the 2013-2014, 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years, KPBSD spent a total of $336,107 in funding from NAFS on local Alaska foods. The amount was less than 3 percent of the cost of providing breakfast and lunch in KPBSD’s 43 schools. Over the same three years, total district food service expenditures were over $13 million, according to the KPBSD 2016-2017 preliminary budget document printed on Feb. 1. 

NAFS is one of many projects and programs discontinued from the Alaska Department of Commerce’s final 2016 budget as a result of fiscal constraints from declining state revenues, according to Martin.

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