« September 2008 Table of Contents
Trend Watch: Seafood in need
SeaShare, America's Second Harvest struggle to get seafood to food banks
By Lauren Kramer
September 01, 2008
Americans may be experiencing leaner times as a result of
high fuel and food costs, but for organizations that feed the
hungry, the situation is looking dire. Just ask America's
Second Harvest, the largest charitable domestic hunger-relief
organization in the country with a network of more than 200
Food banks report a 15 to 20 percent increase in the number
of customers served today versus a year ago, according to a
"Local Impact" survey conducted by America's Second Harvest
earlier this year. And more than 80 percent of the food banks
surveyed could not adequately meet the demands placed on them
without having to reduce the amount of food or their
operations. Food and fuel prices were cited as the primary
factors driving the increased food bank traffic.
"This is a perfect storm for a very desperate situation for
food banks," says Maura Daly, VP of government relations at
America's Second Harvest in Chicago.
"We're seeing an increase in food and fuel and increasing
unemployment rates, healthcare costs and a record level of home
foreclosures. This is having a very negative impact on the
ability of low-income Americans to provide food for themselves
and their families."
SeaShare is the largest contributor of seafood to America's
Second Harvest and since April, the Bainbridge Island, Wash.,
organization is spending more time soliciting seafood
donations. "With increases in food production costs and
transportation, it becomes more difficult for our product
donors to donate the pounds they've donated in the past," says
Jim Harmon, SeaShare's operations director. "Most companies
we've worked with in the past can't donate outright anymore.
They need reimbursement to pay down the cost of production in
order to keep our poundage up."
With every dollar it raises, SeaShare provides eight meal
servings. In the past 14 years, the organization has generated
more than 110 million servings, derived from donations from
approximately 120 companies in the seafood industry.
"Some of those companies we haven't even heard from this
year," Harmon says. "We're having to work harder to network
with our donors and talk to them about what they can do to help
battle hunger in America, because food is scarce and expensive
now. These companies' margins are so much narrower, and product
availability is so diminished."
The exact nature of the seafood product donated to SeaShare
changes from year to year depending on availability. "We do a
lot of frozen fish portions, canned salmon, catfish nuggets,
fish sticks and salmon steaks," Harmon says. "Yesterday we
received a donation of 2,000 pounds of frozen shrimp. But we're
a small, lean organization, and the contributions we receive go
directly into our ability to provide increased portions for the
people we support."
Orca Bay Seafoods is a secondary processor that has donated
product to SeaShare for the past six years. Richard Mullins,
senior marketing manager at the Renton, Wash., company, serves
on SeaShare's board of directors and says it is too early to
know if the economic recession will affect his company's
ability to donate items.
"Where there is food value opportunity in our inventory that
doesn't necessarily have market value, that's usually what we
donate," he says. The donations are typically quarterly but
since they are unplanned and based on availability, Orca Bay
never knows how much it is able to donate.
"I suspect that in these economic times, our customers will
start looking for lower-cost items," he reflects. "Our
customers are going to try and cut their costs now, too, so
they'll be more open to variety and will take more of what
comes off the fish. So it's possible that some of the things
we've donated to SeaShare in the past, such as small portions,
off cuts and items that don't fit our customer base's
specifications will no longer be available. That's where we'll
Trident Seafoods has donated a combination of time and
product to SeaShare every six months for the past six years.
"Our hope is that we can continue donating at the current rate
because it's part of our corporate culture and it's so
important to us," says Jeff Eaton, the Seattle company's
regional sales manager.
At the helm of the company's overrun or distressed
inventory, Eaton identifies product potentially available for
donation and, when necessary, solicits approval to make the
donation happen. The company also donates labor and line time
for processing raw material for SeaShare.
"We've probably donated somewhere between $250,000 and
$300,000 [in the past year], between the product we donate
ourselves and the product we process on SeaShare's behalf," he
estimates. "Sometimes the transportation fees are donated by
the transportation company and other times we pay for the
transportation. We've made a commitment to donate, and we'll
happily stand behind that commitment."
To other companies in the seafood industry that haven't
donated before, Harmon sends a plea for help. "We're not going
away, and we're going to survive this recession. Our plea is
not for our survival as an organization, it is to help the
people we supply with seafood, which is far and away the most
difficult resource to obtain for people who depend on
foodservice. We recognize this is a difficult time but ask our
donors to do whatever they can to keep their support
More information on SeaShare and its donation program can be
found at its Web site, www.seashare.org.
Contributing Editor Lauren Kra m er lives in British