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Bainbridge Island Nonprofit Brings Seafood From Alaska To Food Banks Across The Country

Ashley Gross
Volunteers at Millionair Club Charity dish up salmon fillets donated by SeaShare

This time of year, many of us have been buying pasta or cans of soup to contribute to food drives. But food banks say they could use donations that are more protein-rich. That’s exactly what SeaShare, a Bainbridge Island nonprofit, delivers in a unique way.

On a recent lunchtime, volunteers dished up meals to about 200 people in need at the Millionair Club Charity in downtown Seattle.

But the menu might surprise you.

“Today we’re serving baked salmon,” said Brent Herrmann, director of programs at the Millionair Club. “We’re doing brown rice with soy sauce with it.”

Herrmann says the club usually serves fish once a week.

“It’s probably the number one requested lunch we get,” he said.

Fish Donations

Millionair Club gets its fish donated from SeaShare. Downstairs, in a walk-in freezer, Herrmann pointed to boxes of 3,200 pounds of pollock and cod he recently received from the nonprofit.

Jim Harmon, SeaShare’s executive director, says fishermen in Alaska started it 20 years ago when they had an idea of how to make use of fish caught by accident.

Credit Ashley Gross / KPLu
Jim Harmon (left) and Brent Herrmann in Millionair Club's walk-in freezer, filled with boxes of frozen fish

“When you’re fishing for pollock and you’d get a high-value salmon in your net, the rule was you had to throw that salmon overboard, so there’s no incentive to retain it for commercial gain,” Harmon said. “SeaShare came up with an idea to retain those fish only for hunger relief.”

The group got the approval, and now more than 200 million seafood servings have been donated.

Sharing Seafood Recipes

Harmon says sometimes people need ideas for how to cook fish, so SeaShare goes to food banks to share recipes.

“We do a lot of canned salmon, so we go and show them how to make salmon tacos or salmon patties, you can use as a replacement for hamburger or ground turkey,” Harmon said.

Getting fish from the ocean to a food bank in Boston, say, or Los Angeles is a feat of coordination and goodwill by fishermen and many companies along the way.

But not everything is donated. SeaShare pays for some freezer space and processing, so this month, the nonprofit is trying to raise enough money to give an additional one million seafood servings. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.