Canadian government program saves COVID-hit surplus seafood
By Mari-Len De Guzman
The Canadian government is purchasing up to $15.5 million surplus fish and seafood to be distributed to families in need under the Surplus Food Rescue Program designed for vulnerable Canadian facing food insecurity and for the country’s fish and seafood industry.
Member of Parliament for Sydney-Victoria, Jaime Battiste, and Member of Parliament for Halifax West, Geoff Regan, on behalf of Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, made the funding announcement at Clearwater Seafoods facility in Nova Scotia. Clearwater Seafoods, in partnership with the Membertou First Nation, will receive $1.49 million towards the purchase of 150,000 lbs. of surplus scallops. The project will distribute high quality scallops to Indigenous households, with the Membertou First Nation leading the distribution of the product to Mi’kmaq communities in Nova Scotia and across Atlantic Canada.
In addition, Green Seafoods Ltd. will receive $55,230 through the program for 24,000 lbs. of frozen, cooked blue mussels. The mussels will be distributed to vulnerable populations in Nova Scotia through Feed Nova Scotia’s existing distribution network.
The Surplus Food Rescue Program is a $50-million federal initiative designed to repurpose and redistribute food inventories of high volume, highly perishable surplus products falling under horticulture, meat, and fish and seafood to vulnerable Canadians, while avoiding food waste. These surpluses were created as a result of the COVID-19 pandemid, which largely shut down the restaurant and hospitality industry, leaving many producers without a key market for their food commodities.
The program awarded contributions to eight organizations who will be leveraging existing networks and food hubs, established by national food recovery agencies and companies, to bring the food to all regions of the country. The fish and seafood sector makes up approximately one third of these contributions, and will result in 2.6 million lbs. of fish and seafood, including walleye, salmon, tuna sole and pollock, scallops, and blue mussels, to be purchased and distributed to charity organizations and food-insecure families across Canada.
“Our fish and seafood harvesters work day in and day out throughout the harvesting season to earn a good living and feed families here in Canada and around the world. Through this initiative, we are able to rescue a significant portion of this year’s catch and ensure it gets to those who need it most. It’s a win-win,” said Marie Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, in a statement.
Food is purchased at cost of production, so that producers and processors will be compensated fairly for what would otherwise be lost, but will not make a profit.
According to Statistics Canada, one in seven Canadians indicated that they live in a household where there was food insecurity over a one month period during the COVID-19 pandemic. Inuit, First Nations, Inuit and Métis adults across the North experience five to six times higher levels of food insecurity than the Canadian national average.