“Seafood For Heroes” feeding thousands of US healthcare workers, first responders
Across the United States, healthcare workers and first responders on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis are being treated to healthy, protein-rich meals courtesy of the “Seafood For Heroes” program, a collaborative effort established by the Napa Seafood Foundation, with help from its network of foodservice and seafood industry partners.
The Seafood For Heroes initiative has been gaining steady momentum since its launch in late April, with more than 7,500 meals delivered throughout 49 U.S. cities in 11 states so far. Funds for food are raised by meal drives, with financial contributions accepted on the Seafood For Heroes website. The meals themselves – which range from USD 10 to USD 20 (EUR 9.22 to EUR 18.45) each – are prepared and delivered by the program’s local and national restaurant partners, including popular chain Red Lobster.
During a time when “everyone is hurting,” Seafood For Heroes offers the seafood industry an uplifting cause to rally behind, explained Soren Dalsager, the founder of the Napa Seafood Foundation and CEO of San Francisco Fisheries.
“Seafood For Heroes is about coming together as an industry for a good cause. It takes a village. Whether it’s one meal or 1,000, any contribution helps,” he told SeafoodSource.
Napa Seafood Foundation Chairman Larry Cotter said the program honors the country’s hardworking healthcare and public-service communities with a nutritious protein that can fuel them through the daily rigors of treating the pandemic.
“We’re all facing challenges the likes of which we’ve never seen,” Cotter said. “We are truly humbled by the sacrifices of our healthcare workers and first responders, who put their lives on the line for our safety and well-being, each and every day. We believe it is our duty, as a seafood industry, to thank and support these frontline heroes the best way we know how: by providing delicious, healthful meals that offer the energy they need to keep fighting for us all.”
For individuals and businesses that cannot make financial donations to the program at this time, spreading awareness – including on social media using the hashtag #SeafoodforHeroes – is another way to get involved, the Napa Seafood Foundation stated.
“Any contribution, from awareness to financial support, can help ensure these healthcare workers receive a fresh, well-deserved lunch or dinner break or take-home meal to enjoy with their families,” the non-profit 501(c)(3) organization said.
The idea for the Seafood For Heroes program began percolating following the kind of socially-distant discussion that has become customary during coronavirus times, according to Dalsager. Having recently returned home in March from trips to Asia and Europe, where he saw first-hand the early impacts of the virus, Dalsager was outside when he heard his neighbor over the fence.
“My neighbor is a nurse,” he said. “On the first day I’m home, we spoke while social distancing over the fence. She said hospitals were getting ready, and were expecting a surge in cases. I asked, ‘Is there anything I can do to help?’”
“‘If somebody can help us get a meal, that would be absolutely amazing, because when this hits the fan, we won’t have time for anything, not even a cup of coffee, let alone lunch,’” Dalsager recalled of his neighbor’s response.
From there, Dalsager began reaching out to foodservice industry partners, placing calls to Red Lobster and food and beverage marketing agency The Food Group, which coined the name Seafood For Heroes.
The program has come to showcase the fortitude and tenacity of the U.S. foodservice sector, Dalsager noted, with local and national operators spearheading coordination and outreach with healthcare facilities to make sure seafood meals safely and efficiently reach their heroes.
“The work that Red Lobster and restaurants are putting into contacting hospitals treating COVID-19 patients – figuring out who to talk to, when to deliver, how to deliver, social distancing protocols, taking orders for whole departments, reacting to requests, etc. – is fantastic,” Dalsager said.
Dalsager said the service has been able to reach some of the hardest-hit areas in the U.S.
“We’ve delivered to Elmhurst in Queens, New York – an area hit hard by COVID-19. A local seafood restaurant made that possible," he said.
Interest in participation from seafood restaurants has been increasing, with Cousins Maine Lobster and several others preparing to join the effort.
“Cousins Maine Lobster is working on saving up so they can supply most likely three states to start: New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. Other restaurants are also knocking on the door,” Dalsager said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the U.S. foodservice industry, which has asked Congress to approve a USD 120 billion (EUR 111 billion) stabilization fund to help it weather the impacts of the viral outbreak. Programs like Seafood For Heroes give restaurants a platform to shine and give back within this challenging climate, according to Dalsager.
“What we can do as an industry is give restaurants an opportunity to contribute and do something positive in this situation,” he said.
Seafood For Heroes represents something that the seafood industry as a whole, regardless of category and product catalogue, can champion, Dalsager insisted.
"Whether a meal features farm-raised shrimp from India or wild salmon from Alaska, it’s all seafood for heroes, and it’s doing something good, he said.
Restaurants interested in getting involved with Seafood For Heroes can contact [email protected] for more information.
Photo courtesy of Seafood For Heroes/SSM Health DePaul Hospital