Fish donation ends up at Rescue Mission

Mike Byers of the Mahoning Valley Rescue Mission shows a fish dinner prepared with dionations of fish on Tuesday.

YOUNGSTOWN — Original plans by members of the Whitetails Unlimited and some Mahoning County sheriff’s deputies to donate 1,000 pounds of fish to the Second Harvest Food Bank changed on Tuesday.

Two Mahoning County deputies, Steve Morlan and Mike Taylor, went over the weekend to get 1,000 pounds of haddock in Gloucester, Mass. The fish was filleted, prepared and frozen Sunday and Monday at Jeffrey Chrystal Catering in Youngstown.

But because of federal and state guidelines, Second Harvest Food Bank must follow when accepting fish or meat — including documenting the temperature of vehicles hauling the item — they were not able to accept it.

Michael Iberis, executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank, said “as a trusted organization in the community, Second Harvest Food Bank must adhere to proper food safety and handling guidelines, to ensure all donations are deemed safe for distribution to our hungry friends and neighbors.”

He said as a Feeding America Food Bank that must follow federal and state food and health guidelines, the organization could not accept the donation of fish,

Iberis said he was not advised ahead of time of how the fish donation would be transported, and guidelines require a temperature log of the refrigerated truck must be kept.

“Unfortunately, we do not have any documentation to this effect … While we appreciate the intent of this donation, we must be diligent to protect the people we serve,” Iberis said.

Dennis Malloy, northeastern Ohio field director of Whitetails Unlimited, said the 1,000 pounds of haddock that were prepared and frozen could be given to representatives of the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley and some local churches and organizations.

“Our plans didn’t turn out like we had originally planned for the fish. We had groups contact us about the fish, including a church in New Castle,” he said.

He said because a lot of locations are not able to serve meals because of COVID-19 restrictions, the fish was packaged at Jeffrey Chrystal Catering in Youngstown with items picked up there or delivered.

Mike Byers, kitchen manager of the Mahoning Valley Rescue Mission, said members of the mission were able to drive to the location and then additional fish was dropped off later by members of Whitetails Unlimited and other volunteers.

He said meals with fish, rice and corn were prepared Tuesday for the 80 people who stay in-house at the mission and about 30 to 40 meals for the public to pick up Tuesday evening.

“This is a blessing for us, something to provide to the people in need. We rely on donations, so to get this donation was a big deal,” he said.

Malloy said he hopes what he and others were able to do will inspire others to do something to help people during this time.

Morlan said Sunday they got the 1,000 pounds of haddock at $1 per pound.

“I have friends who are active fishermen in Gloucester. They have seen their customer demand drop significantly, so I asked if they could help take care of people here with some of the fish,” Morlan said previously.

He said the whole idea for the fish donation was to help the growing number of local families laid off from their jobs because of the coronavirus.

“We’ve got people in this area that are really struggling to put food on their table. The last thing I want to see in our community is a kid that has to go hungry,” Morlan said.

Iberis said he wished those who planned to donate the fish would have contacted him beforehand to work on the process that needed to be followed with any donation of fish or wild game.

“That was our main concern … Since, as a food bank, we are under strict federal and state food handling guidelines on the process of how the fish would be brought here. The fish has to be maintained in a certain temperature from when it is picked up to when it is delivered, Whenever we have delivery of fish or wild game, we document the temperature of the truck and the temperature the fish has been kept at, which is required by guidelines,” Iberis said.


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