Bay2Tray addresses the ocean’s health through sustainable seafood networks, youth education, and economic empowerment for a community’s fishing industry. An alarming 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the United States is imported, and often farmed in ways that destroy critical habitat. At the same time, food waste is rampant in the seafood world—an estimated 30 to 40 percent is discarded in a long, opaque supply chain—as growing numbers of children lack access to fresh foods. How can we support local fisheries in the U.S., solve a public health crisis, and cultivate a stronger culture of stewardship for the ocean’s health? Alan Lovewell, who founded Real Good Fish, a community supported fishery in Monterey Bay, believes that seafood is the key to forging stronger connections to the ocean while making real-world social and economic impacts. He sought to reach beyond the affluent customers who purchased his group’s locally-caught seafood to schoolchildren whose eyes and appetites could be opened to the ocean’s wonders. Bay2Tray partnered with school districts to turn grenadier—a fish typically discarded as bycatch—into fish tacos for school lunches, while inviting fishermen to inspire children with tales from the sea. Currently working with several school districts—equating to approximately 12,000 pounds of local fish served to California kids—the project cultivates a rare win-win opportunity where people and the planet benefit from a stronger sense of engagement with the natural world.
Our organization connects people to the natural environment and the fishing culture that provides our food. Bay2Tray is an extension of that idea, recognizing the need for healthier foods for children, as well as the need to have higher levels of engagement with the ocean and fishermen as a life-giving resource and service that we must protect.
I realized that the people who most needed to learn about the importance of the ocean and its nutritional benefits were children. They are the future stewards of our planet. Yet these same children unfortunately get their most nutritious meals from school lunch programs, and face health risks that no generation before them has experienced.
The budget constraints around school food are incredibly tough. At $1.25 per meal, including fruit, milk, and an entrée, it’s really hard to provide a local sustainable protein within that budget. Though many schools support our mission, we are often at the threshold of what they are willing to pay. Our goal is to attain a volume of production that will allow us to secure higher margins that are only possible at scale.
The Center for Ecoliteracy, led by Zenobia Barlow, is the supporting organization of the California Thursdays Initiative, directed by Adam Kesselman. This initiative leverages the massive buying power of school lunch programs to focus on sustainable and healthy food options. Another organization that I respect immensely is the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, led by Niaz Dorry, which has done an incredible job supporting local fishing communities. Finally, our board member Lisa Kleissner and her husband Charly Kleissner co-founded the KL Felicitas Foundation, which commits 100 percent of investments to social impact and has been a pioneer in the field.
One of our staff members, Kevin Butler, is a local commercial fisherman. A chef by trade, he was the first to share his profession and expertise with local schoolchildren for Bay2Tray. He brought freshly caught lingcod and squid, which the kids excitedly explored, while learning about what it’s like to be a fisherman. Yet the children were not the only beneficiaries of this moment. Kevin walked away saying that it was one of the most incredible and gratifying experiences of his life.
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