Seafood Donation Program and Cold Storage in Rhode Island Provides 200,000 Lbs of Fresh Fish to Communities in Need!

September 20, 2022

On Saturday, September 10th, 2022, Move For Hunger and its partners celebrated the culmination of a year-long project to get the Seafood Donation Program ready to set sail! RI Seafood Donation Program Cold Storage Celebration 9-10-22-32.jpg

In collaboration with the Commercial Fisheries Center of Rhode Island (CRCRI), Farm Fresh Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Food Policy Council, Eating with the Ecosystem, and United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI), nearly 200,000 lbs of fresh local seafood can be distributed annually to Rhode Island’s communities in need with over 130,000 healthy, free meals for families. 

That’s nearly 4,000 lbs of fresh fish every week!

“This cold storage is a life saver!” said Henrietta of Higher Ground International.  “For us, just trying to get the fish from the docks in Narragansett to Providence, RI was a logistical nightmare.”  

Prior to this cold storage unit, her team was renting a U-Haul and driving 80 miles a month to retrieve the fish.  Their commute to the new cold storage facility is now seven minutes and has alleviated spoilage concerns. In addition, the Women’s Refugee Car also provides weekly transportation.

While we all hope thaRI Seafood Donation Program Cold Storage Celebration 9-10-22-26.jpgt it’ll be smooth sailing, the path to get here has had its fair share of challenges. 

Move for Hunger has been working to bring food to local communities since 2009, combating food insecurity across the United States and Canada.  In recent years, we’ve expanded our operations to further address the nutritional and environmental needs of today by partnering with local organizations to bring more fresh healthy food directly into communities.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity saw an alarming rise in many communities. In particular, immigrants, people of color, and low-income communities were disproportionately impacted. Rhode Island’s commercial fishing industry also encountered many challenges in 2020, specifically with decreased market demand and impeded supply chains to sell seafood locally. 

Deciding to act, the Commercial Fisheries Center of Rhode Island (CFCRI) worked with the Rhode Island Food Policy Council and Eating with the Ecosystem to purchase seafood with limited market demand, or that would have been thrown away, and bring it straight to Rhode Island’s indigenous and immigrant communities – communities that already had cultural knowledge of handling unprocessed fish for free. 

Since 2020, this Seafood Donation Program has expanded into a new market channel for the fishing community to sell previously lower-demand species that would normally become bycatch, fish that are unintentionally caught while fishing for specific species.

Agencies were grateful and eager to acquire the nutrient-dense fish, but the procurement was laborious, inefficient, and time consuming which resulted in excess volunteer hours, drive times, and waste. 

RI Seafood Donation Program Cold Storage Celebration 9-10-22-44.jpgEngaging supporters to address this new challenge, Move For Hunger committed to providing a permanent cold storage unit at a more centralized location to house and distribute fresh fish to agencies in Providence and the surrounding area. Farm Fresh Rhode Island offered space in their parking lot, and together with CFCRI, Eating With the EcoSystem, and UNFI, an idea bloomed into a yearlong project and ultimate solution.  

While CFCRI navigated the logistics of fish procurement and distribution, Eating With The EcoSystem supported grant, outreach, and marketing efforts.  Among other things, Farm Fresh RI worked tirelessly on the construction site in their parking lot to house the permanent cold storage.  Move For Hunger provided project management assistance to keep the project on track, purchased and delivered the cold storage, and invited the assistance of UNFI who, located across the river from Farm Fresh, graciously provided additional funding for the prep site.  

In early September the Seafood Donation Program celebrated the addition of the permanent cold storage unit with a ribbon cutting and an opportunity to sample seafood and cultural recipes. Benefitting agencies, including Move For Hunger’s Executive Director and Founder, Adam Lowy, and Fresh Food Program Manager, Jackie Godlewski, gathered to meet and shared how this program, along with the improvements, will dramatically impact the nutritional needs of the food insecure in the region.  

RI Seafood Donation Program Cold Storage Celebration 9-10-22-18.jpgMove for Hunger is proud to partner with the Seafood Distribution Program, joining a dedicated group of partners. Partners that provided fresh local seafood include Dave Handrigan Seafoods, Seafreeze Shoreside, Seafreeze Ltd., American Mussel Harvesters, Tony’s Seafood, The Town Dock, Narragansett Bay Lobsters, and numerous local fishing vessels. Community partners that work hard to distribute the seafood among the community include the African Alliance of RI, Women’s Refugee Care, Refugee Dream Center, SunRise Forever Inc., George Wiley Center, Higher Ground International, and the Narragansett Tribal community. Additional funding from the Rhode Island Foundation, Rhode Island Community Food Bank, and Strategic Help Initiative LLC made this program possible.

Since last summer, Move for Hunger’s Fresh Food Program has worked collaboratively with initiatives, like the Seafood Distribution Program, to provide cold storage solutions to help facilitate distribution to local food pantries. With our network of over 1,100 transportation partners, we’ve been able to make our Fresh Food Program an integral part of our operations and have moved over 1.3 million lbs of perishable food - over 1.1 million meals for hunger relief.

In addition through our Fresh Food Program, Move for Hunger has assisted in weekly produce transports with America’s Grow-a-Row, offering transportation resources to deliver over 60,000 lbs of fresh produce (that’s 50,000 meals). In cooperation with Northern Virginia Food Rescue, Move for Hunger has also partnered with Dale City Farmer’s Market to rescue thousands of lbs of farm fresh produce

In the United States, more than 53 million Americans live in a food desert with limited access to fresh produce. Through our Fresh Food Program, like the work being done at Rhode Island’s Seafood Distribution Program, Move for Hunger hopes to combat this issue, one delivery at a time.  

To help bring fresh food to your local community, check out our Fresh Food Program and contact us to get involved.