From the sea to the food insecure: Seafood ‘gleaning’ program begins in N.J.

A commercial scallop fishing boat enters the Manasquan Inlet in Point Pleasant, N.J.  (Wayne Parry/AP Photo, File)

A commercial scallop fishing boat enters the Manasquan Inlet in Point Pleasant, N.J. (Wayne Parry/AP Photo, File)

Several pantries, soup kitchens, and a women’s shelter in New Jersey are the beneficiaries of fresh seafood thanks to a pilot program that began in August.

At a press conference in Point Pleasant Beach last week, Fulfill (formerly The FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties), America’s Gleaned Seafood of Lavallette, and Trinity Seafood of Lakewood announced the New Jersey Seafood Gleaning Pilot Program.

The growing movement seeks to increase food security and reduce food waste by utilizing the approximately 20 percent of seafood that is discarded by United States fisheries annually for consumption.

“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,” said Fulfill CEO and President Kim Guadagno, New Jersey’s former Lieutenant Governor, at the Fishermen’s Dock Cooperative in Point Pleasant Beach.

In New Jersey, 1.15 million people, including 375,000 children, are affected by food insecurity, according to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.

Commercial fishing boats, captains, and crews in Point Pleasant Beach are voluntarily participating in the program.

The New Jersey commercial fishing industry’s annual harvest is valued at more than $166 million, with over 107 million pounds of seafood harvested annually.

“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,” said Brick Wenzel, founder of America’s Gleaned Seafood, a non-profit organization dedicated to facilitating the program.

Wenzel says the participation of only one percent of commercial fishermen in the continental United States could yield 420 million meals per year.

The partnership functions by collecting fish at vessels at sea and at the dock, transporting to a local processing facility, and then delivering to the Fulfill distribution center, where the fish is then sent to more than 275 feeding programs in Monmouth and Ocean counties.

St. Mark’s Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen in Keansburg was among the first to receive ray fish and says the feedback of its Cioppino, an Italian fish stew, was positive, according to Fulfill.

“It was very good and very well received. The ray is mild and has a great texture,” a St. Mark’s Food Pantry spokesperson said.

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