The introduction of wild Alaska Pollock fillet portions into The Emergency Food Assistance Program, on the heels of wild Alaska Pollock whole-grain breaded fish sticks into the National School Lunch Program last year resulted in millions of dollars in Pollock purchases by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Bruce Schactler, director of ASMI’s Global Food Aid program.
The food aid market has been and is a reliable and very good customer for the Alaska seafood industry, Schactler noted, in his annual update to ASMI’s All Hands on Deck meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, in late October. The preference for wild Alaska seafood in several domestic feeding programs has made wild Alaska Pollock and canned wild Alaska salmon a steady item on participants’ menus, he explained. “Supporting the balance of supply and demand between the industry’s production and agency needs is one of the elements in our portfolio that never seems to let up,” he told those in attendance.
For fiscal year 2018, purchases of wild Alaska salmon and Pollock by the US Department of Agriculture for government food and nutrition programs totaled over $22 million.
The National School Lunch Program reaches over 13 million children daily. Another eight million families have access to meals offered through The Emergency Food Assistance Program. Some 87,000 individuals participating in food distribution programs on Indian reservations are now receiving traditional wild Alaska salmon fillets.
ASMI’s global food aid representatives have been carrying out a marketing blitz aimed at all USDA food distribution directors in more than 500 state agency contacts,all 344 tribal leaders and also organizing tastings of other species with key USDA decision makers, and the results have been extremely rewarding, Schactler said. Rewards included the recent purchase of 324,000 pounds of four-ounce vacuum packed wild Alaska sockeye salmon fillet portions, valued at about $4 million.
Consumer research conducted by the Alaska global food aid program also identified renewed demand for wild Alaska canned salmon in domestic and international food programs. Canned salmon is frequently included in the Commodity Supplemental Food Program that serves 684,000 elderly people each month and seafood is a must-have in all meal programs, Schactler said.
With more research and development, there is hope that wild Alaska herring can become the newest product of the Alaska global food aid line. That product is particularly well positioned for international food aid programs which need high protein, shelf stable products at the best price possible.