Seafood for Heroes providing meals for first responders in Ukraine
The Seafood for Heroes program, organized and managed through the Napa Seafood Foundation, is using donations from seafood companies to provide healthy meals to first responders in Ukraine through the World Central Kitchen.
The Seafood for Heroes program was formed in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a way for seafood companies participating in the Napa Seafood Foundation to give back to first-responders and healthcare workers on the front lines.
“When COVID hit, we got together as a group and said ‘What can we do?’” The Food Group CEO Mark Cotter, who serves as a board member of the Napa Seafood Foundation, told SeafoodSource.
The idea beyond the foundation was to provide seafood meals for frontline workers who were often working long hours in difficult conditions. Through members’ help, within months of the first signs of the pandemic Seafood for Heroes was born and already helping healthcare workers.
The idea, Cotter said, was to help both the healthcare workers and the struggling restaurant industry by providing funding and ingredients for meals to restaurants that had extra capacity due to the lack of demand during the height of the pandemic.
“The idea was about helping the restaurant industry, as well as helping frontline workers,” Cotter said.
Soon after the ball was rolling, Seafood for Heroes was already on the ground providing meals for healthcare workers in New York City, which was hit hard by COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic in 2020.
“We were buying thousands of meals from a couple independent restaurants to service major hospital groups in places like Queens, New York,” Cotter said.
With time, the program expanded beyond the more local efforts to a national campaign, assisted by a partnership with Red Lobster. The core concept, Cotter said, was to get the seafood and funding to restaurants near areas that needed help so that those restaurants could then do what they do best – serve meals.
Cotter said the healthcare worker groups were thrilled to have healthy seafood meals – especially because it was different from a lot of the things they were getting.
“They were so happy to get something healthy, and something they could take home after their shift,” Cotter said. “That was important to us, we’re giving them something healthy.”
While the program’s genesis was amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it became apparent quickly that it didn’t need to end there.
“We said ‘Hey, we’ve got something here that’s extendable, it does not have to end with COVID,’” Cotter said.
When tornadoes struck the U.S. states of Kentucky and Arkansas, Seafood for Heroes quickly mobilized to provide meals through Red Lobster and other independent restaurants to those on the ground helping pick up the pieces.
Most recently, the group has focused in on Ukraine, working to help raise money and provide meals via World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit organization that provides meals in response to humanitarian crisis. Through the dozens of seafood companies that provide a combination of funding and seafood, the Seafood for Heroes program is using the resources the industry already has available to help those in need quickly, Cotter said.
“When any crisis happens, we can be there, preparing great seafood, healthy meals for those in need, for those helping others,” Cotter said.
Photo courtesy of Seafood for Heroes