Eating Your Way to Advocacy, One Fish at a Time

From by Sharon Feuer Gruber
Eating Your Way to Advocacy, One Fish at a Time

This is a guest article written by Sharon Feuer Gruber. She is co-founder of the Wide Net Project and the consulting practice Food Works Group.

You are more powerful than you think.”  
—James De La Vega, artist

This quotation sits on my refrigerator, courtesy of my 11-year-old daughter. It’s the perfect place for it, I told her the other day, as the content of our refrigerators and plates truly can empower us to be advocates.

These days, both nonprofit organizations and socially-minded for-profit businesses are celebrating food as a vehicle for social and ecological change. Both invite consumers to become advocates through the choices we make—by using a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card at a farmers market to purchase locally produced food, for instance, or by supporting a café that pays its staff a livable wage. There are seemingly countless, accessible options for conscious consumption.

Leveraging the best of nonprofit and for-profit partnerships to achieve its mission, the Wide Net Project offers consumers the opportunity to become advocates—simply by purchasing delicious fish.

Wide Net does this by increasing the market demand for Chesapeake Bay wild blue catfish, an invasive, overpopulated fish that damages the Bay’s ecosystem; we donate proceeds on sales via our partner distributor, in the form of fish, to community-based hunger-relief agencies that struggle to source healthy, lean proteins. Wide Net pairs this process with education about the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and more.

Purchasers love procuring fish through Wide Net because wild blue catfish is well priced and has a light, clean flavor; it does not have the muddy flavor typical of other catfish since it’s not a bottom feeder. Plus, the fish’s near year-round availability helps local fishers earn a more stable income. For every pound bought, a portion of fish goes toward hunger relief. Recently, I heard a Wide Net Project purchaser-partner toss aside the phrase “win-win” and instead dub Wide Net a “win-win-win-win-win.” She is experiencing the power of the plate.

“I buy this fish because it represents the kind of food system we want to help strengthen and build,” said Tom McDougall of 4P Foods,  a Washington, D.C.-based farm-to-table food delivery service. “Small-scale sustainable farming, fishing, and food production are critical pillars of a future that operates on the idea that ethically sourced, healthy food is a right, not a privilege—and those producing that food should be able to earn a living that matches the incredible amount of hard work, dedication, and artistic talent that goes into it.”

McDougall explained that 4P Foods members realize and appreciate that, by eating Wide Net Project blue catfish, they’re consuming consciously and helping support a more equitable food system. “That, and it tastes darn good. Local food procured from awesome people usually does,” added McDougall.

Through seafood choices and beyond, the meals in front of most Americans have the potential for some level of advocacy. What’s your plate’s superpower?

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