February 9, 2022

West Virginia Non-Profits Team Up To Feed Those In Need

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. – The Conservation Fund’s Freshwater Institute and Mountaineer Food Bank teamed up to provide over 4,000 meals of locally-raised salmon fillets to West Virginians in need. The salmon fillets distributed among Mountaineer Food Bank’s network of food pantries and programs were made possible by a donation of salmon that the Freshwater Institute raised in Shepherdstown.

The Freshwater Institute has been growing fish in Shepherdstown since the 1990s as part of a cooperative partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to increase domestic seafood production through development of “land-based” fish farms. The Institute has developed the technology needed to maintain water quality for growing fish on land while only requiring a small amount of new water to be added each day. The technology is now widely used at commercial fish farms around the world, but the Institute is working to make it more efficient and possible to grow fish like Atlantic salmon, inland near consumers.

The Institute’s work addresses the fact that the United States imports 90 percent of its seafood, with 50 percent of this imported seafood being produced via aquaculture, primarily within substandard regulatory frameworks. Expanding domestic aquaculture production is a key element to addressing this issue by providing an abundant supply of responsibly produced seafood that the American consumer trusts to be high-quality and safe.

With over 260,000 individuals struggling with hunger in the Mountain State, Mountaineer Food Bank’s mission is to feed West Virginia’s hungry through a network of member feeding programs and engage our state in the fight to end hunger. Mountaineer Food Bank, a member of Feeding America®, is the largest emergency food provider in the state of West Virginia, serving families, children, seniors, and individuals at risk of hunger. In the last year, Mountaineer Food Bank and their feeding network distributed over 23 million pounds of food to people in need. With the help of generous donors, volunteers, and partners, Mountaineer Food Bank can feed families and help communities thrive.

“Quality protein is often challenging for families and individuals to purchase when they’re trying to stretch a budget,” said Mountaineer Food Bank Communications Coordinator, Gabri Bonazzo. “This donation will have an enormous impact on those struggling with food insecurity. We are grateful for The Conservation Fund Freshwater Institute’s generosity, as we know how important it is to distribute nutritious foods to those we serve.”

The salmon donation is especially rewarding for the Freshwater Institute staff who spent more than two years carefully raising them, starting with pea-sized salmon eggs and ending with full-grown 15-pound salmon. “It’s gratifying to know that these salmon made their way to dinner plates in our home state of West Virginia,” said Travis May, who oversees fish production at the Freshwater Institute.

About The Conservation Fund’s Freshwater Institute
For over three decades, The Conservation Fund’s Freshwater Institute has been one of the nation’s premier research and development facilities dedicated to sustainable water use and reuse, specializing in aquaculture systems technology. Through our numerous publications, both in science and industry, we share our progress and research findings in order to support our complimentary goals of environmental sustainability, human health, and economic vitality. conservationfund.org/our-work/freshwater-institute

About Mountaineer Food Bank
Mountaineer Food Bank is located in Gassaway, WV. Our organization provides food and other household items to our emergency food network in 48 counties including programs such as food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, backpack programs, senior programs and mobile pantries. Mountaineer Food Bank works with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture to distribute USDA commodities in 43 counties in West Virginia, almost 3.5 million pounds annually. The products are generally staple items such as green beans, corn, canned fruit, juices and proteins such as meat or peanut butter. As a Feeding America® food bank, Mountaineer Food Bank is able to bring in donations from donors across the country by the truckload to distribute into West Virginia. Our partnership allows us to work with retail stores such as Walmart and Kroger in our local communities to reduce food waste and provide much needed produce and dairy.

Brian Vinci, The Conservation Fund, bvinci@consevationfund.org
Annie Boyd, Mountaineer Food Bank, aboyd@mountaineerfoodbank.org