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Community Context

Community characteristics of each of the five sites were unique and varied across several parameters. Site A is a commercially developed town that relies heavily on the tourist trade and is different from the other four, which are basically small bush towns in western Alaska. This section focuses primarily on these other four. Diet There are persons in each of the villages who continue to live a subsistence lifestyle, hunting moose, caribou, and sea mammals, and gathering berries and greens. Although healthy, subsistence living is very time consuming. Most respondents noted that there have been gradual changes in the diet over the past 20 to 30 years, with greater reliance on processed foods. One teacher said that children would “rather eat what they see on TV, like pizza and all that stuff,” which was hard for her to fathom because she “grew up eating Native food.” Each of the villages had one or two small stores where food could be purchased. Fresh vegetables were available on a limited basis. Food is expensive: a gallon of milk is $9.00. An 8 oz bottle of water is $2.50, which is more expensive than soda pop. Most of the soda pop is nondiet. There is a prominent aisle that displays candy at the three- to-four-foot eye level. In one of the villages, there are two restaurants; there were no restaurants in the other three. In one of the villages, several residents operate candy stores in the front rooms of their houses; all they sell is candy and soda pop. Economy The economic base of the four villages varied. One had a fish processing plant, the offices of the school district, and a tribal development authority. Another village had two fish processing plants. In the other two, the school system, the local store, and the local airport were the primary permanent employers. Transportation Closely linked to diet and economy is transportation. Two of the villages had nonstop service with Anchorage, which contributed significantly to the availability of certain foods, particularly fresh vegetables. Such a service also made it less expensive for families to travel to Anchorage periodically to stock up on provisions. If the village was two stops from Anchorage, the second leg was typically on a small prop plane that also ferried in goods. A therapist on the way to a remote village site repeatedly became frustrated because she “was sitting on one side of the plane and the other side of the plane, there was nothing but soda.” 4-41