NARRAGANSETT, R.I. (WPRI) — September is Hunger Action Month, so WPRI 12 and our parent company Nexstar are helping to raise awareness.

Sometimes good can come out of bad. For instance, a new fish distribution program developed during the first few months of the pandemic helps both fishermen and those who need food.

The fishing fleet in Point Judith lost a lot of business due to COVID-19 as restaurants closed or had limited hours. Data from the Commercial Fisheries Center of Rhode Island (CFCRI) shows a 30% loss in revenue from 2019 to 2020.

The fishing fleet at Point Judith, RI

To help, CFCRI secured funding to buy fish from the fishermen. That money came mostly from an anonymous donor.

“Community partners — seven of them across the state — stepped forward and said, ‘we have hundreds and hundreds of people that need food, need meals,'” said CFCRI executive director Fred Mattera.

So a seafood distribution program was born in August 2020 and it continues to this day, supporting fishermen and people who need what they catch.

CFCRI’s Shaye Rooney said they have distributed 70,000 meals and 100,000 pounds of fish to agencies like Sunrise Forever Inc.

Sunrise Forever Inc. is a nonprofit organization which believes that “we all have the obligation to fight and eradicate or mitigate poverty within our poorer communities especially in Liberia, West Africa and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa,” according to its website. Here in Rhode Island, they work to help those dealing with food insecurity.

On a Saturday afternoon, 12 News went to the nonprofit’s seafood distribution site, where volunteers were bagging fresh, whole scup and even some yellowfin tuna for those in need, at no charge. Meals of “old-style empanadas” were also donated by EP Kitchen in Pawtucket.

Alice Howard, founder and executive director of Sunrise Forever Inc., said it was a blessing the seafood distribution program began.

“I’m happy we’re able to help them save some money and also provide protein for families on a weekly basis,” Howard said.

Anyone in need of the fresh seafood can call Sunrise Forever Inc. at (401) 474-5345.

Some of the Sunrise Forever Inc. team on a fish distribution day

The group of volunteers has grown to serve more than 300 families every Saturday.

Johnson and Wales students also help. The culinary students sharpen their fish-cleaning skills to provide cleaned seafood to those who want it.

This seafood distribution program is a win for students, fishermen and those who need the food.

“I’m 48 years in this port, and this is no doubt the most rewarding journey,” Mattera added.

Other agencies that benefit from the program include the African Alliance of Rhode Island, Refugee Dream Center, Women’s Refugee Care, The George Wiley Center, Alliance of Rhode Island South East Asians for Education, and the Narragansett Tribal Community.