“First in Nation” Volunteer Pilot Program Brings Fresh Fish to People in Need

September 20, 2019, Point Pleasant Beach, NJ – Fulfill (formerly The FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties), America’s Gleaned Seafood of Lavallette, and Trinity Seafood of Lakewood are proud to announce their partnership that will reduce the waste of fresh fish that cannot be sold and give it to people who are food insecure through a process known as gleaning. Gleaning is the act of collecting excess fresh foods from farms, restaurants, and now from fishermen, to give to those in need.

“Gleaning is an important tool in the fight against hunger. Perfectly good fish are routinely getting thrown overboard or worse… thrown in a dumpster. What a waste, especially considering one in ten people don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Fulfill serves 136,000 people per year who are food insecure, 50,000 of them children. This new program will provide these families with an additional source of healthy protein in their diets,” said Fulfill CEO and President Kim Guadagno, New Jersey’s former Lieutenant Governor, at the Fishermen’s Dock Cooperative in Point Pleasant Beach.

The partners want to thank the Tyson Foods Protein Innovation Fund for its generous $50,000 grant that made the pilot project possible. “Our community food banks have innovative ideas about how to source more protein in their communities,” said Matt Pakula, Senior Manager, Corporate Social Responsibility for Tyson Foods. “Innovative ideas, like seafood gleaning, will benefit the food bank network and the results remind us all how important local food recovery strategies are to eliminating food waste and feeding more protein to our hungry neighbors.”

The partners also want to thank the commercial fishing boats, captains, and crews that have agreed to voluntarily participate out of Point Pleasant Beach. The highliners include the fishing vessels Arianna Maria, the Kaiely Ann, and the Amber Waves.

“New Jersey is setting the course for fishermen and food banks around the country to work together to feed the hungry. And for so long, our fishermen have been wanting and waiting to do this and help the hungry. If we can get 1% of the commercial fishermen in the continental United States to participate in The Seafood Gleaning Program, we could serve 420 million meals per year to the nation’s food insecure,” said Brick Wenzel, Founder of America’s Gleaned Seafood, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to facilitating this program.

Fish will be gleaned in a variety of ways, including on the vessel at sea and at the dock. Fishermen will store the fish on ice in large insulated cooler boxes located at the docks until Trinity Seafood will take them to their processing facility in Lakewood where they will process the fish, freeze them, and package them. Fulfill then transports the fish and brings them back to its distribution center in Neptune and makes the fish available to its network of more than 275 feeding programs in Monmouth and Ocean Counties, including pantries, soup kitchens, and women’s shelters.

“We are excited to be part of this ground-breaking program. Trinity Seafood, part of SYSCO Foods, takes social responsibility very seriously. We can’t think of a better way to give back to the community than helping to feed those in need. We are pleased to be able to utilize our facility, capabilities, and expertise to make this happen,” said Mike Carson, President of Trinity Seafood.

The New Jersey Seafood Gleaning Pilot Program started in August 2019, with deliveries going out to several pantries, soup kitchens, and a women’s shelter. So far, a variety of rays have been gleaned. We also anticipate receiving sea robins and squid. St. Marks Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen in Keansburg was among the first to receive the ray fish and says the feedback was positive. Its chef made Cioppino with it, an Italian fish stew. They say, “It was very good and very well received. The ray is mild and has a great texture.”

There are many health benefits of fish. Fish is a low fat, high quality protein. It is filled with omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins such as D and B2 (riboflavin). It is rich in calcium and phosphorus and a great source of minerals, including iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium, and potassium. Omega-3 fatty acids support healthy brain function and are crucial during brain development. In fact, the motto of our program is #FeedYourBrain.