How a Boston-Area Food Bank and Local Fishers Teamed Up to Help Two Struggling Communities

The Greater Boston Food Bank and a team of local fishers collaborate to find a creative way to serve communities in need.

Cape Cod’s independent fishers found themselves in rough waters as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the East Coast like a tidal wave. Restaurants that fishers relied on to buy their catches were suddenly closed, and their usual markets seemed to dry up overnight. At the same time, the Greater Boston Food Bank, part of the Feeding America network, was looking for a way to add more variety to its roster, especially as the need for nutritious food was spiking.

“So we said to ourselves, is there a way to address both of these issues?” recalls Seth Rolbein of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. “Can we help fishers keep working and provide wild-caught fish to our communities that are in need?”

These are the things your local food bank needs the most.

That’s Where the Greater Boston Food Bank Came In

The Greater Boston Food Bank, notes CEO Catherine D’Amato, supplies about 600 pantries, shelters and other distribution partners. Working together, the fishers and the food bank came up with a smart solution: haddock chowder, a product they dubbed Small Boats, Big Taste. Fish chowder is an easy and delicious recipe to make, so it is the perfect way to solve the problem.

Catherine Damato Quote

One of the requests the food bank made to Plenus Group, the specialty food manufacturer, was for a healthier recipe for chowder. “We know that folks struggling with hunger have compromised health, so you want the product to be as enjoyable and flavorful as possible,” Catherine says. But the taste was just as important.

How Chowder Is Making a Difference

Haddock chowder from Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s AllianceCourtesy Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance

The lower-fat chowder arrives frozen in an 18-ounce container and can be prepared on the stovetop or in a microwave. Some say it’s as tasty as chowder in some of Boston’s best restaurants! In its first year, the food bank distributed 175,000 servings of Small Boats, Big Taste Chowder.

The fishers and the local manufacturer are being paid fairly, and individuals and families are getting the nutrition they need, without losing out on taste. “That’s a win-win,” says Catherine. “It’s been an overwhelming success.” Now, the food bank and the Fishermen’s Alliance are looking to develop more seafood products.

For more information about the Small Boats, Big Taste program, visit the Cape Cod Fishermen Alliance website. Plus, here’s how you can help your local food bank right now.

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Nan Bialek
When she was in fourth grade, a local newspaper published one of Nan’s stories and she hasn’t stopped writing since. Today, as a freelancer, she writes features and website content about inspiring people who are trying to change the world. When she’s not telling their stories, Nan enjoys getting her hands dirty in the garden, reading novels and hunting for quirky vintage décor.