At the Alaska Native Medical Center, path to recovery is aided by what comes out of the kitchen

Published: Jun. 4, 2019 at 10:58 PM AKDT
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Step into the kitchen at the Alaska Native Medical Center, and you'll likely see some of what you'd expect, but more of what you don't - at least, compared to most hospitals.

That's because ANMC focuses on traditional foods and Alaskan items, whether bought or donated.

"There's a lot of things that make our kitchen special," said Amy Foote, Alaska Native Medical Center Executive Chef. "We make traditional recipes, we use traditional ingredients, and sometimes we're left to just get items we can purchase."

Foote, leading the team at ANMC, has her hands full, but every day, what she's cooking up is anything but ordinary: On Tuesday, fish broth, fresh salmon, seared spruce, and fried salmon skin was all ready to eat, along with sandwiches, cakes, and plenty of other foods that might sound good.

"It's healing, it's bringing people comfort," she said. "The plants and animals part of it started years and years ago."

Her mission is that all the patients that come from the far reaches of Alaska can feel like they're at home for every meal.

"I had one patient," she said. "I gave her the broth and she sighed. You could watch her relax, see that healing happen. She was like, 'I knew that was seal! I could smell it out in the hallway!'"

Some ingredients are bought, but some - including many found on the most wanted list - are donated.

"Moose, seal, many of the different plants and berries in Alaska," Foote said, "because they're not commercially available."

From herring eggs to fiddlehead ferns, there's much to be found on the kitchen line at ANMC.

"Reindeer pot pie, beach asparagus is not commonly used in most hospitals I wouldn't think," Foote said. "Fish pie, seaweed, lots of seaweed, fish head soup..."

For those looking for a taste of their normal lifestyles, these are foods that heal, bringing a bit of home when patients need it most.

"This is about more than food," Foote said. "It's providing a connection to the land, to heritage. It offers peace and calmness and relaxation which promotes the healing process."

Donating hunted and gathered foods to ANMC

People can donate hunted and gathered foods to the inpatient program at ANMC, but

there are specific requirements for the types of foods that can be donated and what condition they must be in in order for the hospital to be allowed to serve them.

A few examples of accepted donations include most wild game meat, including moose, caribou, deer, sheep and beaver, but they must be whole, quartered, or roasts and cannot be ground; most fish and seafood, with or without heads, so long as it is


canned or vacuum-sealed; and most plants and berries that are whole, fresh or frozen. Anything caught or hunted must have been alive when harvested and must have been obtained legally. A transfer of game form is also required before ANMC can take possession of any donated meat, per the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game.

Types of donations that are not accepted in any form include but are not limited to bear, fox, and walrus meat; seal or whale oils, with or without meat; fermented game meats; smoked or dried seafood products, unless prepared in a seafood processing facility permitted uned 18 AAC 34; fermented seafood products, such as salmon eggs; and molluscan seafood.

If you are interested in donating, you can call (907) 729-2682 or email for clarification and additional information.

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