Alaska is the largest state with a cadre of transportation challenges and innovative solutions.
The majority of communities are dependent on air and water to transport people, vehicles, and goods, including food and basic supplies.
The current food system is highly vulnerable given its dependence on a lengthy supply chain that imports foods from producers and distribution centers in the lower 48 states. Threats to this food supply chain include natural disasters (wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis, drought, flooding), food safety recalls, transport interruptions due to weather or mechanical failures, political upheaval, and/or terrorism. More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic led to shelter-in-place precautionary measures at the national, state, and community levels in March 2020. Continued uncertainty around the long-term health and safety of food workers in the lower 48 may lead to even more supply shortages and interruptions in the future.
Food hubs are a logical way to increase localized food production in Alaska and improve the distribution of regional food products to their communities. A food aggregation hub is a clear way to build a regional food economy by establishing a regional network to empower local producers, especially in rural communities, to access a larger consumer market.
Transportation is one of the most critical challenges to overcome for food producers if their goals are to grow their operations and access larger urban markets. Instead of accepting the current limitations of the transportation system, building a regional food economy will rely on developing innovations based on diversified, decentralized, relationship-based, and community-centered approaches. In addition to developing alternative transportation networks, we can better utilize existing ones.
Existing transportation systems include:
- Airlines: local, regional, and national
- Highways (deliver vans, refrigerated trucks)
- Ferrys (Alaska Marine Highway)