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Point of View: Set a bigger table

Jim Harmon is executive director of SeaShare, a national nonprofit organization that focuses on seafood as an important and sustainable resource for hunger relief.
by Jim Harmon
September 01, 2012

September is the month of harvest: Crops are being gathered, nets are being hauled in, cans are being filled and store rooms are being stocked. So it is fitting that September is also Hunger Action Month. Our seafood industry has the resources, the expertise and the generosity to make significant contributions to fill the hunger needs for many Americans. The National Fisheries Institute’s 2012 class of Future Leaders wants to help set a bigger table. They are working on a seafood donation program to generate large volumes for the nation’s food bank network, and I hope you will heed the call.

Protein continues to be a difficult item for food banks to access. Food banks are often forced to use their limited funds to access low-quality food staples. Seafood, with its myriad health benefits, is a great addition to their normal offerings. And by working together, the donations that seafood suppliers make are maximized while the costs are shared. For example, Preferred Freezer Services is offering to transfer and hold donations free of charge for customers who want to donate at any of their cold storage locations. Not all companies have products to donate, but everyone can find a way to help. This is the message that the Future Leaders are sending out, and the timing couldn’t be better.

Despite the incredible resources and opportunities that exist in America, hunger continues to grow. Demand throughout the food bank network has increased. They are serving families and the under-employed (not just the unemployed — less than 10 percent of food bank clients are homeless). The need is consistent across the country: 49 million Americans don’t have consistent access to food. That includes one out of every five children. And the consequences of hunger and poor nutrition place added burdens on other social services. Poor nutrition limits cognitive and muscular development, creating a lifelong struggle to learn, work and earn. 

September is a great month to realize the fruits of our efforts, and to be thankful. NFI’s class of Future Leaders told me collectively that they want to be involved in something that gives back, and they have chosen to contact all of their members for support this fall. I welcome their help. A donation program can be a positive element in any business plan. Working hand in hand with fishermen, processors, importers, distributors and other stakeholders, we have generated millions of pounds of high-protein seafood to battle hunger in our communities. But there is more we can do, and NFI’s Future Leaders want the entire seafood industry to be involved. 

If you are reading this magazine, you are interested in feeding people. Increased demand leads to increased sales, right? We have a unique opportunity to “do well while doing good.” Food bank clients are made up of families. We can improve the health of young mothers and their children, and we can promote seafood to a large segment of the population. Most clients access the food bank shelves for a limited time, between jobs or at the end of the month. They will shop and they will dine out. If we make seafood available to them, and include information on the safe handling, preparation and importance of seafood in a balanced diet, we can change eating habits. The 2012 class of Future Leaders gets that. When they contact you, I hope you’ll help NFI and the Future Leaders set a bigger table. Whether you have seafood, services, or financial support to offer, everyone has something to give. Together, we can feed more seafood to more people.   

Jim Harmon is executive director of SeaShare, a national nonprofit organization that focuses on seafood as an important and sustainable resource for hunger relief.

August 2012 - SeaFood Business 

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