Yes we can: Cermaq and Grieg are donating 62,000 and 24,000 tins of salmon respectively. Photo: BCSFA.

Canadian farmers donate tonnes of fish to food banks

Salmon farmers in British Columbia are jointly donating more than 27 tonnes of fish to hard-pressed food banks in the province.

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The BC Salmon Farmers’ Association (BCSFA) has created the initiative with Food Banks Canada and Food Banks BC to feed families during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mowi Canada West, Grieg Seafood BC, Cermaq Canada, Creative Salmon and Golden Eagle Aquaculture are donating around 60,000 pounds (27,215 kg) of salmon to food banks that are seeing increased demand due to the virus.

John Paul Fraser: Farmers are providing families with healthy protein.

Stepping up

“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,” said John Paul Fraser, executive director of the BCSFA, in a press release.

“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.”

Food banks in BC help nearly 100,000 individuals each month, and an increase in demand is expected to last beyond the pandemic as the economy slowly recovers.

Demand up, donations down

“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.”

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.

Cans and fillets

To accommodate this demand, the BCSFA donation will include 86,000 cans of Atlantic salmon provided by Cermaq (approx. 62,000 cans) and Grieg (24,000 cans). The fish will be processed and canned by St Jean’s Cannery & Smokehouse in Nanaimo, then distributed to food banks on Vancouver Island and throughout the province.

Mowi is donating one thousand 1lb (450 gram) fillets each week to food banks in Campbell River and Port Hardy, for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis. It has partnered with a Port Hardy company, Hardy Buoys Smoked Fish, to produce the portions.

Golden Eagle Aquaculture, in Agassiz, about 60 miles east of Vancouver, 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.

Laura Lansink: "I have never received a donation like this before."

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

Mowi Canada West managing director Diane Morrison said: “These are challenging times for everyone. For the individuals and families in our communities who are struggling to put food on the table, foodbanks, soup kitchens and other support organisations play such an important role.

“We are pleased to be able to provide them with support as we go through this crisis. During difficult days, communities come together, and we are proud to do our part.”

David Kiemele: "We are fortunate to be able to continue forward with our farming".

Giving back to communities

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.”

Rocky Boschman, managing director of Grieg Seafood BC, said: “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.”