Before KTVA embarked on its Eat Alaska Challenge, one rural community, southwest of Anchorage, did a similar challenge for six weeks last fall and witnessed the positive effects of eating locally. 

Igiugig high school teacher Tate Gooden and his students came up with the idea of the Native Foods Challenge as a science experiment to see:

  • What would happen if the community ate only traditional, local foods for six weeks?
  • How would their health be affected?
  • Would they notice changes in blood pressure, blood sugar or body weight?

The class came up with the hypothesis: "We think this experience is going to be painful. People are going to be going through withdrawals from sugar and caffeine, but we think that our health is going to greatly improve."

The challenge may have started in the classroom, but people in the community heard about it and volunteered to join in as well. 

"What started out as a children's challenge resulted in noticeable improved physical health for the small village's adults," Gooden said. "Igiugig — southwest of Anchorage on the Alaska Peninsula — has only 69 residents. Twenty participants, ranging in age from 7 to 48, completed the challenge from Sept. 13 through Oct. 30, 2017."

It may have been hard to stick with the lifestyle change, but everyone's hard work really paid off. 

"We had a lot of weight loss in the adults, which was great," Gooden said. "Nine adults lost a total of 192 pounds during the six weeks, he said. One adult who had diabetes reported being able to cut back on medication during the challenge. Another adult reported a decrease in high blood pressure," he said.

Every day, Gooden's students journaled their findings throughout the challenge and at the end of the school year, they presented the project during a science fair. 

Because of the success of their 2017 challenge, Gooden said the community is planning to do another one next fall. 

To read their blog, visit the Play Every Day website

Play Every Day is a campaign with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services to increase awareness about childhood obesity in Alaska with tips for children and their families to live an active and healthy life.

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