The Columbia Journal
P.O. Box 2633 MPO,
Vancouver, British Columbia,
Canada V6B 3W8
Unions Building Community
Protein for People
What happens when food banks, the United Fish and Allied Workers Union
and canned salmon come together? Thousands of needy people get access
to a good source of protein they may otherwise not get, says John
Since last year, the recently retired president of the Fishermen’s
Union has been coordinating a program that gets the surplus of canned
salmon from warehouses to food banks across BC.
“It came to me as sort of a revelation while driving home from a
bargaining session,” he said. “Fishermen were negotiating a price for
salmon, and the companies were telling us there was an over-supply of
Radosevic says he was listening to a radio report claiming that food
banks were concerned about the lack of donated protein goods that
forces the banks to buy such goods at market prices.
That was when he decided to approach the food banks to work out a plan
to deal with the over-supply of canned salmon and the lack of protein
goods at the same time.
“We partnered with the food banks to buy canned salmon at discount
prices from the warehouses,” he said. “It’s shelf-stable, which means
it lasts and helps deal with the shortage of protein.”
Donations to the program are made mainly through the United Way, where
people can designate a portion of their donation specifically to
Protein For People, as well as through labour and credit unions and
from the general public. Radosevic says that in 2003, the year the
program was started, over 20,000 cans, at about a dollar each, hit the
shelves of food banks across the province.
But he adds this barely addresses the problem. The Vancouver food bank
alone serves over nine thousand people each week. The Surrey bank
serves similar numbers, and with growing poverty in rural and resource
communities, Radosevic says the demand is increasing.
But he insists the program will grow to meet the challenge. In two
years, he hopes to have 100,000 cans per year going to food banks. He
also is considering expanding the program to other canned good such as
“I anticipate an over-supply (of canned salmon) for a long time,
especially pink salmon,” Radosevic says. “It’s still not a lot given
the number of people needing food banks. BC could probably absorb $1
He adds that when the program gets that large, it will be able to plug
into the national network that food banks have to service major cities
across the country.
“Next to cash, it’s the product of choice,” he says. “Food banks need a
lot of protein, and it costs them a lot to get it. What we’re doing is
making it affordable.”
Radosevic also points out the economic benefit of the program as well.
“We create a market for the canned goods, which creates jobs for
cannery workers and lets fishermen get a good price for their fish,” he
said. “I think it’s the best source of protein on the planet.