Wellfleet nonprofit links local shellfish harvesters with soup kitchens
By Denise Coffey / email@example.com
Posted Apr 3, 2020 at 5:42 PM Updated Apr 4, 2020 at 6:29 AM
WELLFLEET — A plan set in motion this week by Shellfish Promotion And Tasting Inc. (SPAT) will help shellfish harvesters and Cape residents hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The nonprofit organization has earmarked $50,000 to buy oysters and clams for distribution to soup kitchens in Hyannis and Provincetown. The money will be spread among 54 Wellfleet shellfish harvesters who have signed on to the program.
The Community Food Share Program works by coordinating the needs of the kitchens and rotating the harvesters who supply the product. SPAT purchased 600 clams and 300 oysters from a total of eight harvesters in the first week of the program, paying $1 for each oyster and 50 cents for each clam.
“We want to spread the money out,” SPAT Executive Director Michele Insley said. “We want to keep farmers working and give food to those in need.”
Demand for shellfish dropped overnight when restaurants closed per Gov. Charlie Baker’s emergency order to help curb the outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Most of harvesters’ customers are restaurants with chefs and staff who know how to handle the product and have the equipment to cook it. With the exception of a few distributors who are licensed to sell directly to customers, shellfish harvesters are out of luck.
Harvesters also need distributors to take their product to market to comply with state and federal regulations designed to trace product in the event of illness. Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulations ensure food safety by regulating all hazards associated with the production, handling, distribution and consumption of a finished product, in this case clams and oysters.
Every piece of shellfish must be traced to its harvest area and date. Distributors are required to log key pieces of information including the date, time and harvest area of all products they accept.
“That way shellfish can be recalled,” said Alex Hay, owner of Eastham-based Wellfleet Shellfish Co.
Hay has been in the business for 25 years as a dealer and surf clam dragger.
“The federal and state governments put the onus on the dealer,” he said. “That’s why harvesters have to sell to dealers.”
“We log everything,” said Zack Dixon, general manager of Holbrook Oyster in Wellfleet. Refrigeration is key, he said, and time and temperature controls are essential.
’You can’t have harvesters driving them (shellfish) around in unrefrigerated trucks.”
Finding SERVsafe-certified kitchens with staff who know how to cook shellfish was another hurdle. Shellfish can’t be passed out raw, but rather must be cooked into a finished meal and shared.
“Not everyone knows how to handle and cook raw shellfish,” Insley said.
Holbrook Oyster, Wellfleet Shellfish Co., and Big Rock Oyster Co. in Harwich have volunteered to distribute the shellfish to Faith Family Kitchen in Hyannis, Mac’s Market and Kitchen in Eastham and the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod in Provincetown.
Kitchen staff will turn the shellfish into stews and other meals that will be available by delivery only. Faith Family Kitchen has been serving between 150 and 200 meals a day, three days a week.
Directors of any commercially licensed kitchen interested in participating in the program are asked to contact SPAT at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow Denise Coffey on Twitter: @DeniseCoffeyCCT.