Diversified helps feed the hungry with SEG seafood
While the myriad displays of all types of finfish, shellfish and related food products at Seafood Expo Global are used to entice and promote the sale of seafood during the show, when the show is over much of that same seafood product is used for a different purpose – feeding the hungry.
This year, as has been happening almost every year since the first expo in Brussels, exhibitors are encouraged to donate any seafood they wish to leave behind, and the Lions Club Zavantem National Airport Erasmus District 112C helps distribute the food to the needy.
It began in 1995, the brainchild of a collaboration between the Brussels Expo, the city and Diversified Communications, the producer of the annual event and parent company of SeafoodSource. They all wanted to find a way to avoid wasting the thousands of pounds of seafood that is often simply left behind when exhibitors break down their booths.
“We discussed the problem and tried to find a solution,” said Michel Brilliet, a longtime member of the Lions Club.
Now, exhibitors have the opportunity to donate their product for collection. Not everything is used; a doctor and hygiene expert from Belgium’s Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain has to pronounce each piece of seafood safe to eat first, but Benoit Van Crombugge, a veterinarian who is conducting this year’s inspections, said on average 95 percent of the seafood inspected is kept. Typically, the seafood donated includes product that is well-marked and easy to track, such as frozen and canned foods. Shrimp, salmon and whitefish are the most common species.
Brilliet said since the club began accepting donations, it hasn’t been hard for the international pavilions to get involved.
“All majors are participating,” he said. “All of them.”
From there, the club arranges for the seafood to go to charitable organizations. In the beginning, Brilliet said the club delivered the seafood themselves, and the organizations were shocked to receive it.
“At first, they were surprised, like anybody receiving a present,” Brilliet said.
But once the word got out, the organizations became much more enthusiastic. Brilliet said they often know the dates of the next seafood show before the club does, and on the final day of the show, the organizations show up with wheeled carts to collect donations.
“They were very, very happy,” he said.
In an average year, the program will yield enough seafood to contribute to more than 10,000 meals, all going to a variety of churches, charity groups and food banks through Belgium and Northern France. This year, the club has a list of 19 such groups, and is expecting a good turnout, and a good supply of fresh seafood once again.