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BC salmon sector makes unprecedented food bank donation

29 April 2020, at 4:09pm

Rising pressure on British Columbia's food banks during the COVID-19 crisis, has been eased by a vast donation from some of British Columbia’s largest aquaculture companies.

In total 60,000 lb of salmon has been pledged by Cermaq Canada, Grieg Seafood BC, Mowi Canada West, Creative Salmon and Golden Eagle Aquaculture.

A selection of salmon cans
Cermaq Canada and Grieg Seafood are donating 86,000 cans of Atlantic salmon to food banks across BC, processed through St Jean’s Cannery & Smokehouse in Nanaimo

“This is a time for all industries to step up and support those most affected by COVID-19, and that’s exactly what BC’s salmon farmers are doing,” says John Paul Fraser, executive director of the British Columbia Salmon Farming Association (BCSFA). “Working with Food Banks BC, we’re delighted to partner with BC-based businesses to can, process and transport fresh BC farm-raised salmon, providing families with healthy protein produced here in the province.”

Every month, food banks in BC help nearly 100,000 individuals, and an increase in demand is expected to last beyond the pandemic as the economy slowly bounces back.

“In some instances, numbers have already doubled and we’re seeing line ups grow longer, yet food donations are down. Some people who were donors are now food bank recipients,” says Laura Lansink, Executive Director of Food Banks BC. “It’s a very stressful situation for our food banks and we anticipate we will feel the repercussions of this for one or two years into the future.”

Due to the pandemic many food banks are shifting their distribution towards pre-packaged, shelf-stable foods that require less volunteer or client handling of products.

To accommodate this request, this BC salmon farmers’ donation will include:

  • 86,000 cans of Atlantic salmon: Cermaq and Grieg have donated fresh Atlantic salmon, which has been processed and canned by St. Jean’s Cannery & Smokehouse in Nanaimo, to Food Banks BC. From there, the salmon will be distributed to food banks on Vancouver Island and throughout the province.
  • 1,000 pounds of Atlantic salmon per week: Each week Mowi is distributing 1,000 one-pound portions of Atlantic salmon to food banks in Campbell River and Port Hardy. They have partnered with a Port Hardy company, Hardy Buoys Smoked Fish, to produce the portions for weekly delivery for the length of this crisis.
  • Canned Pacific salmon: Golden Eagle Aquaculture is donating multiple cases of canned land-grown coho salmon to food banks. Creative Salmon, which farms organic Chinook salmon off Vancouver Island’s west coast, is also donating canned salmon to help support food distribution efforts in the Tofino and Ucluelet area.
  • Aquatrans Distributors Inc. is donating most transportation costs of the salmon to St. Jean’s for canning and to five BC food bank hubs for distribution.

Together, this industry donation will supply the equivalent of over 200,000 meals to British Columbians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have been with Food Banks BC for almost a decade and I have never received a donation like this before,” Lansink adds. “Protein donations truly are hard to come by, so we are so grateful to BC salmon farmers for stepping up, particularly at this time of COVID-19 when food, and especially protein, is in such short supply. This donation will make a tremendous impact on the individuals, families and children who simply can’t always afford to put food on their tables.”

David Kiemele, managing director of Cermaq Canada, said: “Being identified as an essential service by both the federal and provincial governments, we are fortunate to be able to continue forward with our farming and are responsible for supplying the markets and families with salmon during this time of change and uncertainty. We are also aware that many families are feeling the financial implications of the current Covid-19 pandemic, and we are happy to be able to give back to local communities by supplying food banks with 30,000 pounds of locally and responsibly grown Cermaq salmon. Once canned, this translates into 62,000 cans of salmon that will be available for families and individuals in need.”