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SeaShare: A Cause Close to Home and Our Hearts
For hungry families, seafood is the ideal protein, packed with omega-3s, vitamin D, and more

12/15/2016 By Craig Weatherby and Jim Harmon

SeaShare is a unique anti-hunger charity located on Bainbridge Island, Washington, about two hours south of our home base in Bellingham.

They’ve been distributing seafood to food banks and feeding centers around the United States for 22 years.

And we’ve been proud supporters of SeaShare ever since we learned about their wonderful work.

Unlike large seafood processors, retailers, and brands, Vital Choice is too small to provide substantial amounts of fish.

So instead, we’ve been doing our part by providing financial support that helps to fund their operations.

Recently, we interviewed SeaShare Executive Director Jim Harmon to learn more about their work, and share his answers with our readers.

We urge you to support their incredibly worthy efforts, which help hungry families — especially children — get adequate protein.

Click here to donate to SeaShare.

Just as importantly, fish is the best food source of vitamin D, omega-3s, selenium, and other nutrients needed to enable optimal health.

Here’s our interview with Jim Harmon:

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Vital Choice: What was the genesis of SeaShare?

Jim Harmon: SeaShare began in 1994 with a small group of commercial fishermen in Alaska who took unintentionally caught fish (known as bycatch), which they were legally required to toss back into the sea.

We worked with government agencies to change regulations in Alaska — the largest fishery in the United States — to allow the retention of bycatch solely for use by hunger-relief agencies

(The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service played key roles in this change).

Since then we’ve added other donation programs across the country. Today, the majority of our donations are not from incidental catch, but from "first-run", sellable seafood donated by generous fishermen and seafood processors around the country.

They believe in the power of seafood, and want to be part of our national effort to improve nutrition for hungry Americans.

In many cases frozen fish are first processed to remove the heads and guts and then donated to SeaShare.

We then recruit other donors to ship, re-process fish into family-sized portions, and store for food bank distribution. Many of those downstream partners donate their services, while others provide them at a greatly reduced cost.

Vital Choice: Why is it important that hunger relief agencies receive seafood?

Jim Harmon: Food banks have a difficult time obtaining protein for the people and families they serve.

Fish is rich in protein, omega-3s, vitamin D, and other essential nutrients that help fight hunger and ensure optimal nutrition, especially for children.

Studies confirm that Americans don't get enough seafood. Hungry families have an even harder time putting seafood on the table. [Editor’s note: see the articles* listed at the end of this interview.]

SeaShare's goal isn't just to feed people. We use seafood to feed people well.

Vital Choice: How many seafood meals has SeaShare donated to food banks and feeding centers since the beginning?

Jim Harmon: Over the last 20 years we've distributed more than 200 million seafood servings, thanks to the generosity of fishermen, seafood processors, and financial donors who support our programs.

Vital Choice: Do your donations reach states in every region of the country?

Jim Harmon: We began with regional donations but have gradually spread across the country.

Last year, SeaShare distributed seafood in 28 states. We have key partnerships with Feeding America affiliates in Washington, California, Massachusetts, and Illinois.

Vital Choice: What are the most commonly donated seafood items?

Jim Harmon: About 60% of all domestic seafood comes from Alaskan waters. Donated species include salmon, pollock, cod, and halibut.

We also work with distributors, importers, and retailers who donate catfish, tilapia, shrimp and other seafood to SeaShare.

Vital Choice: How do you distribute frozen fish?
Is it only distributed locally, or does it travel further in freezer trucks?

Jim Harmon: SeaShare works to obtain high-quality seafood and put it in forms and packages that food banks can use.

We rely on Feeding America and their network (200+ large food banks covering all 50 states) to distribute our donations safely and efficiently. Most of them have refrigerator and freezer trucks to pick up our fish. Sometimes we contact local freight donors to help deliver seafood.

In Alaska we have to get creative to reach remote communities.

For example, this summer we again worked with the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station in Kodiak to deliver donated seafood to communities in Kotzebue in Nome, using their big C-130 cargo plane.

This annual project is a great example of SeaShare's ability to recruit partners who want to help, but could not donate if SeaShare didn't supply the framework to utilize each organization's particular strength.

Our partners on this project included Gulf of Alaska fishermen, Kodiak processors, the USCG C-130 air crew, Maniilaq Corporation, Kawerak Corporation, and regional air carriers Ravn, Bering Air, and Ryan.

For this year’s delivery, Ocean Beauty Seafoods and Trident Seafoods supplied 14,000 pounds of frozen halibut for delivery in Kotzebue and Nome.

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Thanks for reading, and please try to donate to SeaShare!

*Related articles: