SeaShare donation volume doubles due to increased need in US
Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.-based SeaShare has seen a massive uptick in donation requests from food banks across the country, as the COVID-19 pandemic is causing many Americans to become food insecure.
Founded in 1994, SeaShare is a nonprofit organization that enables the U.S. seafood industry to donate food and resources to hunger-relief efforts nationwide. SeaShare takes donated seafood from fishermen and processors around the country and delivers it to food banks – which typically welcome the offer of a healthy protein for those in need, according to SeaShare Executive Director Jim Harmon.
Harmon said volumes of donations so far this year have been far in excess of any that the program has donated in the past. SeaShare partners, including the At-Sea Processors Association, the Pacific Seafood Processors Association, and the National Fisheries Institute, have helped via a combination of donations and other support.
“So far this year we’ve distributed over five million seafood servings to food banks in 18 states,” Harmon told SeafoodSource. “That is double the volume we typically distribute January through July. Protein is the hardest item for food banks to access, and the first to run out. SeaShare’s partners are working to find anything and everything that can be used for hunger-relief programs.”
Demand, Harmon said, is up by roughly 40 percent, largely due to the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
“One in six Americans are now food insecure, many of them for the first time. And if schools can’t re-open, local food banks will work to ensure that children are fed,” Harmon said.
Throughout that uptick in demand, SeaShare has also had to cope with the same challenges caused by COVID-19 as everyone else. Harmon said that the organization is, like so many others, “figuring it out as we go.”
“The majority of our donated seafood comes from boats and plants operating in Alaska, where production has become much more difficult,” Harmon said.
Seafood processing plants across Alaska have had to cope with the challenges of a pandemic, with plants facing positive COVID-19 cases and large trawlers also grappling with outbreaks over the course of the summer.
“Managing crew safety and product safety during the current pandemic has had a major impact on production,” Harmon said. He said difficulties include shipping schedule disruptions, and having to negotiate new policies at food banks for receiving and distributing food.
Even with those challenges, SeaShare has still managed to continue donating seafood to areas in need. On 7 August, the nonprofit sent a U.S. Coast Guard C-130 packed with 12,000 pounds of frozen fish from Kodiak to Kotzebue, where it was donated to families in 11 rural villages, as part of an annual shipment SeaShare has made for the past eight summers.
Currently, the At-Sea Processors Association and the Pacific Seafood Processors Association are sponsoring a month-long fundraiser throughout August.
“Our seafood partners tell us there is more volume available if SeaShare can raise the funds needed to process, pack, and ship it,” Harmon said.
As the United States continues to struggle with the coronavirus and its economic fallout, demand from food banks for donations have increased through the summer, Harmon said.
“SeaShare works to maximize the generosity of our seafood industry. The need has never been greater,” Harmon said. “We are all being challenged right now, and I am proud of our seafood partners who are working harder than ever to keep markets supplied, shelves filled, and families fed.”
Photo courtesy of SeaShare