Local Fish, University Dining Halls, and the Power of the JOIN Network

“When I started my JOIN placement at the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance a year ago, I thought I’d be on my own up in Gloucester organizing fishermen, not in the middle of a web of JOINiks,” says recent JOIN alumna Shira Tiffany. “Those worlds aren’t as separate as I thought.”

Today, JOIN Fellowship alumni from the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA) (Shira Tiffany, ’15), the Real Food Challenge (RFC) (David Schwartz ‘11), and Red’s Best (Molly Bajgot, ’15) are working together on a campaign to pressure university campuses to purchase local community fishermen’s catch. NAMA organizes a network of family fishers, fishworkers, and allies advocating for a healthy ocean and just seafood system through community-based fisheries. RFC organizes university students across the country to shift food purchasing in their dining halls to ethically and sustainably produced food. Red’s Best is a seafood company buying seafood from over one thousand small, local, owner-operated fishing boats off the coast of New England, selling to consumers and institutions, and leading the way in seafood supply chain traceability.

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Real Food Challenge students talking with fisherman Bill Chaprales at the April Council Action

The goal of Real Food Challenge student leaders is to open new markets for community-based fishermen that strengthen their local economies and steward the marine environment. Red’s Best is one of the few, and arguably the best, traceable seafood aggregators in the region, and thus is poised to  facilitate actionable opportunities for universities to join the campaign and purchase local sustainable seafood.

“From anti-sweatshop to divestment campaigns, students have proven a unique and powerful role in economic justice movements,” said David Schwartz of Real Food Challenge. “For many of us, fisheries didn’t make the list of top food justice issues. But the more we learn, the more we’re committed to fighting for family fishers and against the commodification of the oceans and the consolidation of our fishing fleets.”

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David Schwartz, ‘11, with Real Food Challenge student leaders in solidarity a Fisheries Council Meeting this April

Collaboration between these three organizations builds power by bringing together grassroots producers, students, and local business owners in sustaining our fishing communities and our fish stocks. Family fishers, buyers of their catch, and students are collectively leveraging their power to get local fishers’ catch into universities. The goal is for universities purchasing local catch to also support policies ensuring these community-based fishers can continue to make a livelihood. RFC provides the student power needed to shift institutional purchasing.

We are especially proud of the role our JOIN alumni have played in creating and strengthening these partnerships.  “Because of our background and the training and network from the JOIN fellowship, the three of us are off to a strong start,” says Molly Bajgot.  “We have a sense of where each other are coming from and a shared vision for the world as it should be. We have overlapping personal relationships and now professional—it makes our work meaningful, more fun, and comes from a place and background of trust.”

Molly, David, and Shira invite you to join in solidarity with New England Family Fishers at an action with fisheries policy makers. Whether you eat local seafood, support family food producers, our public commons, or simply want to keep those in power accountable, this is a fight that affects us all. Read more about the action and context here.

  1. JOIN family fishermen, allies, and JOINiks next Wednesday, September 30th, in Plymouth, MA from 12 pm to 4 pm. We need your bodies!
  2. Sign the petition
  3. JOIN the Thunderclap sharing the petition on social media

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Molly and Tlaloc at Westfield State tabling for Red’s Best and RFC with Dining Manager, Maria

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