Salmon farmers give 60,000 pounds of protein power to BC food banks

“I have been with Food Banks BC for almost a decade and I have never received a donation like this before…protein donations truly are hard to come by… particularly at this time of COVID-19,” –  Laura Lansink, Food Banks BC.

By Fabian Dawson and Samantha McLeod

Providing food to those in need can be difficult at the best of times for Canada’s food banks. With COVID-19, this task just got harder.

Food Banks Canada says demand at the 3,000 food agencies it represents across the country could surge to 30 to 40 per cent because of COVID-19’s devastating economic impact. Prior to the pandemic, the food agencies averaged 1.1 million visits per month.

In British Columbia, food banks help nearly 100,000 individuals – one in three a child –  and the 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,” said 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.”

To boost the continued supply of nutritious protein to those in need, the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) today announced the creation of a salmon donation initiative with Food Banks Canada and Food Banks BC to feed families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cermaq Canada, Grieg Seafood BC, Mowi Canada West, Creative Salmon and Golden Eagle Aquaculture are donating around 60,000 pounds of salmon to food banks that are seeing increased demand. Together, this industry donation will supply the equivalent of over 200,000 meals to British Columbians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 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.
  • Transportation. 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.

“I have been with Food Banks BC for almost a decade and I have never received a donation like this before,” Lansink said.

“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.”

John Paul Fraser, Executive Director of the BCSFA said: “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.”

Caring in the time of COVID-19

John Paul Fraser, Executive Director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association:
“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 the healthy protein produced here in the province.”

Ryan Brush, General Manager, Aquatrans Distributors:
“Aquatrans is grateful to be working with incredible companies that can come together and do good in a time when there is not a lot of good news. We feel the food bank is an invaluable resource that we are proud to support.”

David Kiemele

David Kiemele, Managing Director, Cermaq Canada:
“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.”

Terry Brooks, President, Golden Eagle Aquaculture:
“As food producers, we feel that the right thing to do is to ensure that families can access nutritious sources of protein. We are all in this together, and we hope to help our community out by contributing the Coho salmon we raise.”

Rocky Boschman, Managing Director, Grieg Seafood BC:
“There isn’t one person who’s not impacted by this pandemic. As salmon farmers, providing meals for families in need is where we can help, and for Grieg, donating 24,000 cans of our salmon is a small ask during a big crisis.”

Marine Harvest Canada

Diane Morrison, Managing Director, Mowi Canada West:
“These are challenging times for everyone. For the individuals and families in our communities who are struggling to put food on the table, food banks, soup kitchens and other support organizations play such an important role.”

This is not the first time BC salmon farmers are coming to the fore in the fight against COVID-19.

In March, Cermaq, Grieg and Mowi donated barrels of Hydrogen Peroxide to Shelter Point Distillery to help create hand sanitizer for frontline workers on the North-Central Island.

Vancouver Island’s Shelter Point Distillery, which is world renowned for its artisanal whisky, vodka and gin, has suspended its distilling operations in order to switch production to manufacturing medical grade sanitizer.

Hydrogen peroxide or H2O2 is a chemical compound that’s a combination of hydrogen and water. It is one of the longest-running, and most widely-used, solutions for delousing treatments employed by salmon aquaculture. When hydrogen peroxide hits the sea, it breaks down into its natural components – hydrogen and oxygen – making it one of the most environmentally friendly solutions available.

Image shows Laura Lansink, Executive Director of Food Banks BC, with some of the donations by BC salmon farmers