SeaShare, food distributors work to keep food supply moving amid COVID-19 pandemic

Seafood producers and foodservice distributors alike have formed partnerships amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to ensure that U.S. residents continue to have a supply of food.

On 19 March, the International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA) and the FMI-Food Industry Association announced an ad-hoc partnership to help cope with the supply-chain disruptions caused by the ongoing epidemic. The new partnership consists of a matching program, connecting foodservice/broadline distributors with excess capacity – either products, transport services, or warehousing services – to food retailers and wholesalers that need additional resources to meet the rapidly increased demand seen in the retail and grocery industry.

“Our industries are both committed to the safe delivery of food to consumers and we are equipped to provide service during this critical time in our country,” IFDA President and CEO Mark Allen said. “This partnership makes sense and it is in these times of turmoil that we must step up and fill the gaps when we can to help each other where we can.”

The demand in recent weeks, according to a release from the IFDA, has surpassed that of any previous holiday season, far exceeding the capacity of most grocery chains to maintain supplies. That spike in demand is coupled with many local and state governments mandating the closure of all restaurants, schools, and other businesses that are supported by the foodservice distribution industry.

That means foodservice distributors have additional capacity, which the partnership is intended to use to shore-up gaps created by the unprecedented demands.

These are unprecedented times with unprecedented needs, but if we can think in terms of partnerships and problem solving, we can get through this together,” FMI President and CEO Leslie Sarasin said. “We are committed to replenishing supplies, but we know it will take cooperation, patience, and consistency to deliver results.”

In response to an upsurge in need caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, SeaShare – a nonprofit organization devoted to partnering with the seafood industry to get seafood into various food banks – has announced a partnership with Alaska pollock producers to donate two million servings of seafood to food banks in 12 states. SeaShare sent family-sized packages of Alaska pollock to 16 food banks in 12 states, utilizing the Feeding America network of food banks.

“This large seafood donation is important as we work as a nation to combat COVID‐19. Our most vulnerable populations, including those who struggle with hunger, are at particular risk from the spread of this deadly virus. Wild Alaska pollock provides top‐tier nutrition for the clients of food banks, and we are thankful that the seafood industry continues to help feed our neighbors in these uncertain times,” SeaShare Executive Director Jim Harmon said. “Over the past 25 years, SeaShare and our industry partners have sent over 230 million servings of nutritious seafood to food banks from coast to coast, and we will continue to support our food banks with the best protein available – seafood.”

According to Feeding America, protein is often the hardest thing for families in need to access.

“Protein is the most difficult food item for our 200 food banks to access,” Blake Thompson, chief supply chain officer at Feeding America, said. “This donation is not only nutritious but, very much needed by those we serve across the Feeding America network.”

Meanwhile, the National Fisheries Institute has created a website aggregating all frequently asked questions consumer have, or may have, about how seafood is affected by the coronavirus.

“The coronavirus is not related to seafood,” a statement on the website said. “Seafood is a vital part of a healthy diet and remains a safe, smart choice at grocery stores and restaurants. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends two to three servings of seafood per week. Do not stop eating seafood.”

The website, according to NFI, was created in response to requests from members.

“Our members alerted us to an increasing number of questions they were getting from their customers in response to coronavirus,” NFI Director of Communications Lynsee Fowler told SeafoodSource. “We determined the best resource for members to easily pass along information would be through a simple website.”  

The site includes answers to questions like whether coronavirus can be contracted from seafood, whether consumers should avoid Chinese-origin seafood (there’s no evidence that there’s any risk), and more.

“The website aggregates third-party, independent public health information from U.S. and global resources. The content provided is based on language from the likes of the [Centers for Diseas Control, Food and Drug Administration, and World Health Organization] – it is not NFI or industry’s opinion,” Fowler said. “The website will be updated continually.”

Photo courtesy of Moreno Soppelsa/Shutterstock 


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