By this time next year, Bethel will become the first distribution hub on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta for donated seafood from Sea Share.
Wells Fargo Bank branch manager Jon Cochrane wears a lot of hats when it comes to volunteering in Bethel. As the Lions Club President, Cochrane's next project is a partnership with the nonprofit organization Sea Share, which is run by the Alaska commercial fishing industry to redistribute donated seafood to food banks around the state.
“We’ve been trying to improve distribution of seafood and all frozen productions in western Alaska. We’ve been working in Nome, Kotzebue, Dillingham. We hope that Bethel can be the next regional hub that we can work through to reach hungry families,” said Sea Share Executive Director Jim Harmon. “We had a real push from our donors, seafood companies who operate in Alaska, asking us to try to do more to give back within Alaska.”
Initially, Sea Share contacted the Lions Club, which runs the local food bank in Bethel, to assist them in distributing fish from different processors. Cochrane says that a donated freezer container arrived from Sea Share last month.
“The plan is to get it all installed and hooked up and functional, and next year,” Cochrane said, “when the first freezer barge is able to run to send us a whole lot of fish that we’re able to distribute here in the region to needy families.”
Operating on all-volunteer labor, the Lions Club has a food distribution service already in place that delivers once a month. But to deliver more fish more frequently to more communities in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, they’ll need to expand over the next year. They're not sure just yet how they'll do that.
“Whether it’s partnering with other organizations to get food outside of Bethel, or going to remote sites where the food is more accessible to people, where they don’t have to come to us but we’re coming to them,” said Cochrane. “So we’re trying to develop what that’s going to look like, but the goal is to get more food to more people.”
Cochrane says that while they’re just in the beginning stages, those interested in learning more may contact him through the Lions Club Facebook page where monthly food distribution dates are also posted.
Sea Share plans to barge 8,000 to 10,000 lb. of donated seafood to Bethel in April 2019.
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Sea Share would send bycatch seafood to Bethel. This information is incorrect. All seafood sent to Bethel will be donated seafood and none of it will be bycatch.