January 17, 2013 | Volume 43, No.2

Do seniors get traditional foods?

If you are 60 or older, the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) wants to know about your access, or lack thereof, to local traditional foods.

Kathy Friedle, a community dietician, will be interviewing elders about their eating habits, particularly as they relate to subsistence hunting and fishing. A survey will also be available online as an alternative to the in-person interview, although Friedle said she would prefer to talk to participants face-to-face.

Friedle said older people experience physical, financial and logistical obstacles to obtaining customary food like salmon, moose and berries, and SEARHC is interested in gathering more information about these barriers and their possible solutions.

Many of the questions will concern the permanent identification card (PIC), which residents over 60 years old can apply for through the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The card is issued without charge and renders sport fishing, hunting and trapping licenses unnecessary.

“The concern is they have put so many restrictions on the PIC now: It’s harder to get, you have to apply more often. And SEARHC’s concern is, are the elders getting enough traditional food? Do they have enough access? Do they need proxies? Do they need assistance? Is there some way we can help?” Friedle said.

Kari Natwick, SEARHC’s nutritionist for Southeast, wrote the $20,000 grant with Janai Meyer.

Natwick said the survey isn’t focusing solely on Natives, but that Native elders are certainly affected by the transportation, financial and knowledge barriers that make it difficult for seniors to access food sources in their own backyards.

Though part of the survey will be identifying specific problems and hearing what potential elders think might solve them, Natwick said possible solutions include fostering communal hunting and fishing trips, promoting trade between individuals and communities, and creating classes targeted at making youth more comfortable and adept outdoors so they can assist or accompany older members of the community.

Friedle said after her research concludes in two months, she will arrange a presentation at the library to share the results. She is also hoping to compile a video composed of clips from recorded interview sessions. Interviews will only be recorded with consent.

The survey is available at www.surveymonkey.com/SEARHC_elder_survey.Individuals interested in setting up a phone or face-to-face interview can call Kathy Friedle at 766-6366 (daytime), 766-2717 (evening) or email kathryn.friedle@searhc.org. Participants will receive a $10 Olerud’s or Howsers IGA gift card.