The program’s mission, Bruce Schactler reminded participants in ASMI’s All Hands on Deck meeting in Anchorage, is to increase use of Alaska seafood in domestic and international food and nutrition programs by way of education, research and product development. This fills a dual purpose of providing vital proteins in areas where they are lacking in diets and moving large volumes of products from species caught in great abundance, to keep it from being held in inventory.
In previously established domestic and overseas food aid programs, ASMI worked to create more demand for Alaska seafood products in food distribution programs on Indian reservations, emergency food assistance programs and the national school lunch program. The product list now ranges from canned pink salmon and sockeye salmon fillet portions to Alaska Pollock braded fish sticks and portions, and herring fillets. The program began in 2004 with canned pink salmon as its only product.
This year alone, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has purchased 1.8 million pounds of frozen Wild Alaska Pollock whole grain braded fish sticks, and nearly 8 million pounds of frozen wild Alaska Pollock portions, Schactler said.
The addition of wild Alaska salmon fillet portions – both sockeye and coho – to the USDA food basket, will expand the number of underserved populations, including families, children, pregnant women and the elderly, according to Schactler’s report.
Among the latest product promotions is herring in fillet forms.
The program, he said, is perfectly placed to fill the animal protein gap, and an opportunity to incorporate more seafood into menus and people’s meal patterns.