The Seafood For Heroes program, organized and managed through the Napa Seafood Foundation, is using donations from seafood companies to provide healthy meals to first responders in Ukraine through the World Central Kitchen.
The program, established in the early days of the global COVID-19 pandemic, initially allowed participants to give back to first responders and health care workers on the front lines.
“When COVID hit, we got together as a group and said, ‘What can we do?’,” explained The Food Group CEO Mark Cotter, a board member for the Napa Seafood Foundation.
Cotter said the original idea was to help healthcare and frontline workers laboring under difficult conditions, along with the struggling restaurant industry. The program provided money and ingredients for meals to restaurants that had extra capacity due to lack of demand during the height of the pandemic.
Seafood For Heroes was already providing meals for healthcare workers in New York City, hard hit as the pandemic took hold. Cotter said they purchased thousands of meals from a couple of independent restaurants for major hospital groups, citing Queens, a borough in New York. With assistance from Red Lobster, the program went national.
“It was important to us, we’re giving them something healthy,” Cotter said.
Seafood For Heroes went on to mobilize to provide meals through Red Lobster and other independent restaurants when tornadoes struck in various parts of the country.
Most recently, the group has focused on Ukraine, working to raise money for meals via World Central Kitchen. The nonprofit provides meals in areas struck by natural disasters or crises.
“When any crisis happens, we can be there, preparing great seafood (and) healthy meals for those in need, for those helping others,” Cotter said.