Seafood for Heroes has adjusted its traditional methods to provide funding for World Central Kitchen, a non-profit devoted to providing meals in the wake of disasters. Be sure to check out the in-depth podcast that breaks down this article!
WORLDWIDE— The Seafood for Heroes program, organized and managed through the Napa Seafood Foundation – both located in San Rafael, California– is using donations from seafood companies to provide healthy meals to first responders in Ukraine through the World Central Kitchen.
The Napa Seafood Foundation formed the program in the early stages of the global COVID-19 pandemic as a way for participants in the foundation’s program to give back to first responders and health care workers on the front lines performing long strenuous duties.
The group has recently focused on Ukraine, working to raise money and provide meals via World Food Kitchen, a nonprofit entity that offers meals in humanitarian crises.
“When any crisis happens, we can be there, preparing great seafood, healthy meals for those in need, for those helping others,” said Cotter. “So, just moving that effort when the crisis happened in Ukraine, we mobilized. We are a global organization; we got seafood companies to help those refugees in Poland and surrounding areas of Ukraine. So, we discovered right away that it’s hard to do that with the same way we do it here in the U.S. because it’s challenging to find chain restaurants and smaller restaurants that can help.”
Cotter’s companies have worked with World Central Kitchen before, and they found the Ukraine issue to be a perfect reason to work with them again. World Central Kitchen has a system already set up in Ukraine. Seafood for Heroes found it best to contact World Central Kitchen and offer to raise money through their fundraising efforts and help them produce meals in the areas where their set up is located. In addition, Seafood for Heroes has also recruited volunteers to help prepare the meals.
Seafood for Heroes has ongoing fundraising efforts to raise money, such as their annual fundraiser, which takes place in June.
“What we do is we help fund World Central Kitchens through our fundraising efforts, which is the best way they [World Central Kitchen] feel anybody can help them,” said Cotter. “They’ve got the boots on the ground, and they need funding. They have given plenty of support to others in terms of products and things from not only the U.S. but from other countries.”
World Central Kitchen is organized to mobilize in Ukraine. The money that Seafood for Heroes raises goes directly to the World Central Kitchen location that is currently set up in Ukraine.
“The program itself began a few years ago to aid all first responders, starting with the COVID crisis,” said Mark Cotter, CEO of The Food Group. “The Napa Seafood Foundation started almost ten years ago, and it was to support people, communities, and families in the seafood industry around the world. When COVID hit, we thought that we should put our efforts into an organization for helping first responders, and that’s where the concept for Seafood for Heroes came from. It was utilizing our fundraising efforts and our influence with the community to be able to raise money and create meals for first responders around the country.”
Seafood for Heroes already provided meals for healthcare workers in New York City, which was hit hard early on during the pandemic. Cotter said they purchased thousands of meals from a couple of independent restaurants for significant hospital groups in places like Queens, New York. Then, with assistance from Red Lobster, the program went national.
Seafood for Heroes went on to mobilize and provide meals through Red Lobster and other independent restaurants when tornado storms struck in various parts of the country. While working together, Cotter and his team visited 120 cities and provided 18,000 meals.
“It was important to us; we’re giving them something healthy,” said Cotter. “We decided that when efforts had died down, we would keep Seafood for Heroes going and then use that as a foundation and as a program that we would use for ongoing efforts.”
For those interested in helping, you can visit the Seafood for Heroes website to donate money.