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US (AK): Angoon school hopes to increase village’s food sovereignty

Green might surround the remote Southeast Alaska village of Angoon, but inside its only grocery store, that’s scarcely the case.

According to data from Feeding America, a nationwide nonprofit that works to address food insecurity, it’s estimated that 22.8% of the child population in the Hoonah-Angoon Census Area experienced food insecurity in 2019, which is 56.2% higher than the national average. According to Feeding America, those percentages have likely increased throughout the pandemic. However, despite the challenges, students and faculty at Angoon’s Chatham School District are taking steps to change that.

Angoon agroscience hydroponic cultivation class Haa Aani’: Haa Yaasi’ Haa (Our Land, Our Harvest) is now in its second year of operation. Its goal, according to Ryan Smith, the teacher and project manager, is to teach the students how to cultivate healthy and sustainable foods to eventually provide to the community by using both traditional Tlingit practices and knowledge in addition to newer technologies.

The students have already helped Klukwan build its hydroponic garden, including Susan Joseph, an eighth grader at Chatham, who said working with the hydroponic units is one of the best parts of her day.

She said many of her family members suffer from diabetes, and she wants to use her knowledge and resources from the class to help them eat a more nutritious diet, something that they have struggled to do while living in Angoon.

“It teaches me a lot of important things and gives me a lot of opportunities later in life,” Joseph said. “It’s inspiring, I think I’ve learned about things, but I think the most important thing I have learned is that change can be realistic and possible, and I don’t want to stop here — I want to do this for the rest of my life.”

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