In 2017, Bert Jongerdon, General Manager of the Portland Fish Exchange, called the Maine Coast Fishermen's Association because he had a load of cusk and could not find a buyer. MCFA couldn’t identify a buyer, either, and the fish ended selling for pennies. Shortly after, MCFA discussed the possibility of accessing such available, low-cost fish with the Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program. The fish they have is often frozen products like tilapia, or canned tuna. Coombs saw an opportunity to connect Midcoast Hunger, who had the budget and a need for healthy food, with Portland Fish Exchange, who had fresh, local fish from Maine fishermen.
In this pilot project, MCFA determined fishermen's interest in donating fish, identified permits required to purchase and transport fish to Midcoast Hunger’s refrigerated storage, and tested several deliveries of fish, which were served in Midcoast Hunger’s soup kitchen. Next, MCFA plans to work on distribution from the food pantry for home preparation and consumption. This project is allowing fishermen and Maine’s seafood industry the opportunity to contribute to their community and increase their value in the food system. “If successful, we'd like to identify ways to include other food pantries and school food programs,” said Coombs.
Sea Grant funds: $5,000