Local organizations pair up to provide seafood to those in need

Peninsula Premier Admin

MONTEREY — Together, the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust and Meals on Wheels of Monterey Peninsula have made black cod the main source of protein in nearly 10,000 meals donated across the Monterey Peninsula since the start of the pandemic.

“We’re dedicated to strengthening our community and are tremendously grateful for the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust and all of the local fishermen who help us provide locally-sourced nutrition for our clients,” local Meals On Wheels Executive Director Christine Winge said in a statement announcing the partnership recently.

“This is an excellent example of creative collaboration,” she continued. “When it comes to working toward the common goal of addressing hunger, we are stronger together.”

Every year, Meals On Wheels delivers thousands of meals to homebound seniors and disabled adults throughout Monterey County.

In a similar stream of altruism, the Fisheries Trust partners with the local fishing industry, local government and conservation organizations to increase access to sustainably caught seafood while also preserving the biodiversity of Monterey Bay.

The organizations’ relationship was born out of the economic disruption incited by the pandemic.

As restaurants closed and supply chains broke down in the wake of COVID-19, the seafood economy experienced hardship. For a fishing industry like Monterey’s, the need was apparent.

With the help of an initial $50,000 grant courtesy of Catch Together, a national nonprofit aimed at protecting fisherman’s businesses and communities, the Fisheries Trust created the Monterey Bay Community Seafood Program. Through the ongoing program, seafood buyers receive funds to purchase fish from local fishermen and then donate the catch to emergency food agencies like Meals On Wheels.

To date, the Fisheries Trust has donated over 2,000 pounds of filleted black cod to Meals On Wheels. The introduction of fresh, wild-caught fish into Meals On Wheel’s daily menu was met with overwhelmingly positive feedback, the organization boasted.

As a result of the fruitful partnership and community response, Meals On Wheels has committed to purchase seafood directly from local fisheries for its seafood needs.

“This whole thing has kind of turned into a more robust partnership in terms of getting the fish through a grant but now circling back to buy directly from local fisheries,” said Jacob Shafer, Meals On Wheels development director. “It’s a win-win all the way because we’re serving clients with locally caught stuff and supporting the local fishing industry at the same time.”

For Shelly Flumefelt, executive director of the Fisheries Trust, the relationship between Meals On Wheels and the area’s fishermen is a welcomed extension of the Monterey Bay Community Seafood Program.

“Meals on Wheels took it to the next level,” she said. “(The agency) was so happy about the local component of supporting local food workers that they’ve made a commitment to sourcing from more local seafood providers year-round.”

Partnerships like that of the Fisheries Trust and Meals On Wheels, as well as a renewed awareness of the importance of locally sourced seafood, are silver linings of COVID-19 that Flumerfelt hopes to see endure long after the pandemic.

“I think we lost touch with local food and with connecting local food to businesses,” she said. “When seafood supply chains broke down, the importance of supporting local food floated to the surface.”

Since starting the Monterey Bay Community Seafood Program, the Fisheries Trust has donated more than 20,000 meals through participating emergency food relief agencies. Though the Fisheries Trust has exhausted Catch Together’s initial grant, the organization continues to receive additional funding from other sources such as MUFG Union Bank and the Teichert Foundation to keep the program active.

“It’s great that everyone remembered and realized it’s not always good to go for the cheapest imported products,” said Flumerfelt. “Looking to local community members and supporting them is one of the silver linings that came out of COVID.”

Contributed by local news sources

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