POINT PLEASANT BEACH – A partnership to feed fish to the hungry and reduce the waste of fresh fish that cannot be sold, has been formed between a leading food bank organization and two seafood companies.
Fulfill, formerly the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, joined forces with America’s Gleaned Seafood of Lavallette and Trinity Seafood of Lakewood to launch the nation’s first volunteer pilot program.
The conference, held at the Fishermen’s Dock Cooperative in Point Pleasant Beach included members of each agency who spoke about how the program was designed to prevent the waste of fresh fish and how it would provide food for those in need.
“This will be a game changer when it comes to providing fresh protein to those who are food insecure in New Jersey and Monmouth and Ocean counties in particular,” said Kim Guadagno, CEO and president, Fulfill, and former Lt. Governor of New Jersey.
Guadagno explained seafood gleaning during the news conference. “most of us know what produce gleaning is which is simply taking the extra produce that would otherwise be tossed and giving it to food pantries and shelters. It is the same thing here only with seafood.”
“Commercial fisheries often have what is called bycatch, which is a lot of leftover fish, which they can’t use for one reason or another, which is either tossed back or sometimes tossed into the dumpster and it’s perfectly good fish. Today we’re going to start gleaning that fish. We’re going to save that fish,” Guadagno said.
Pointing to several bright blue containers on the dock, Guadagno said, “we are going to turn that food out to Trinity food processors and make sure that fish gets turned over to those in Monmouth and Ocean counties who need it the most and there are a lot of them.”
Guadagno said 136,000 people in Monmouth and Ocean County “will go to bed tonight not knowing where their next meal is coming from. One out of seven or 50,000 of them are children.”
Fulfill’s mission is to alleviate hunger and build food security in Monmouth and Ocean counties and to make sure that all people at all times have access to enough nutritious food to maintain an active and healthy life. Members of the group prepared some basic recipes to assist those receiving the fish to cook several meals.
Guadagno thanked “the Tyson Foods Protein Innovation Fund for its $50,000 grant that made the pilot project possible. We’ve actually processed our first fish from this…Not only is this program the first of its kind in this country but I think it will be successful throughout the country because of what we are doing here.”
Brick Wenzel, president, America’s Gleaned Seafood said, “We’re kicking this program off here in New Jersey and in Monmouth and Ocean counties where we have two of the top 20 commercial fishing ports in the continental United States. We catch over 200 species of fish in New Jersey. Usually when you think of the fishing industry you think of Massachusetts but New Jersey has a vibrant commercial fishing industry.”
“When you talk about the complexity of the seafood gleaning program we’re putting together, this is not something that will happen overnight. We are anticipating 30, 40 maybe 50 years to get this program running to 100 percent because our long-term goal here is to get gleaning built into every fisheries’ management plan.”
Trinity Seafood President Mike Carson said, “We are very excited to be a part of this groundbreaking program. We can’t think of a better way to give back to the community then by helping provide food for the hungry,” Trinity Seafood is part of SYSCO Foods.
Carson said, “how this works is that the fishermen bring in the product that is targeted for gleaning and they bring it to the docks and the dock workers work with them at no charge and they are put in these vats, iced down, and a local delivery vehicle is dispatched to swing by and brings the product to Trinity and it is put on the roster for production.” He added thus far Trinity has been involved with providing 1,674 meals for the program.
Gleaned seafood has reached St. Marks Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen in Keansburg and the feedback was positive.
Erin Leo, registered dietitian and nutrition programs coordinator at Fulfill said, “Fish promotes brain health.” Leo noted several health benefits of fish including a low-fat content, high quality protein and that it is “filled with omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins such as D and B2 (riboflavin).