Food banks across the country are struggling to keep up with demand as more families are struggling financially because of the pandemic, but a new program is helping to get fresh seafood directly from the coast to families in need nationwide.
Dwayne Hopkins who oversees the South Portland Food cupboard in Portland, Maine has seen a dramatic increase in need over the last year. Since the pandemic began, they have been struggling to keep up with demand as families suddenly find themselves in a position where they can't afford food.
"It’s brought to light that more and more people out there are hungry," Hopkins said.
An estimated 54 million Americans are facing food insecurity. So, many families are going hungry right now that food pantries across the country are struggling to keep shelves filled.
But food banks from coast-to-coast are about to get an infusion of fresh seafood, at a time when the need has never been more critical.
"The seafood industry has been hit pretty hard," explained Kyle Foley with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute.
Thanks to an emergency grant from the USDA, they are in the process of moving fish from these pristine Maine waters to food banks nationwide. An estimated 2.5 million pounds of fresh haddock and pollock are being filleted, packed and shipped out to families in need.
"For food banks to be able to get this U.S. caught seafood is amazing," Foley said.
By the time the program is done, 139 food banks in 39 states across the country will end up with Gulf of Maine Responsibly Harvested Fish. Many of those food banks are in places where it's hard to get fresh seafood. Fishermen who've been hit hard by the pandemic because of the closure of restaurants are getting an infusion of cash.
"We hope this encourages people to continue to eat seafood," Foley explained.
There's something else that's happening as a result of the program that has nothing to do with food. It's about the boost in morale food banks see when a person shows up expecting a box of pasta but walks away with a fresh piece of fish.
"I think one of the great things happening out of this pandemic is people are saying, ‘We have the food. How do we get that food to the hungry?’ When we can provide our people with fresh market product, it bolsters their self-esteem," Dwayne Hopkins said.
At a time when so many families are struggling to make ends meet, a bit of hope off the horizon.