Meeting with Ipswich Shellfish Group and Members of Sodexo and BIDMC
We pulled up to the harbor in Gloucester, MA, eager to learn from members of the Ipswich Shellfish Group and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and collaborate to make sustainable seafood in the hospital a reality. Not only did we convene to discuss the specifics of serving sustainable seafood in the hospital, we also came together to envision the larger impact such a transition could instigate in other hospitals and institutions beyond the Boston area. As the pungent fishy odor wafted through the air, everyone stood in a circle and expressed their hopes about the purpose of this program. Nora Blake, the Sr. General Manager at Sodexo for the Greater Boston Area, delivered an impassioned speech about her vision to use the BIDMC sustainable seafood efforts to illustrate that working with your local fishing community and considering environmental impacts can be cost neutral and benefits all parties involved. BIDMC certainly has the power and influence to make such a message widespread. The chefs present from Sodexo expressed their desires to work with different fish varieties and foster trust with consumers in order to make them feel comfortable trying the range of seafood options served. Their descriptions of the recipe possibilities made everyone’s mouths water.
As the group explored the docking site and later progressed to the Ipswich Shellfish Group’s processing facilities, it became strikingly clear that a fishery really does include every person involved in the elaborate process of bringing seafood from the ocean to the dinner plate. By conscientiously purchasing seafood from the local fisherman in Gloucester, the hospital will move one step closer to decreasing the divide between the sea and the consumer. In so doing, physical distance and carbon emissions certainly decrease, and just as importantly, the relationship between the fishing community and the customers strengthens. In this single day, we saw fishermen offloading 900,000lbs of herring from their boats, workers tediously shelling clams and processing a plethora of fish varieties, and still others shipping the seafood out to demanding industries. We even had the opportunity to hold a 70-year-old female lobster and pose for a picture with this wonderfully wise creature.
The day ended on an optimistic note. A partnership had formed with the Ipswich and Gloucester fishing communities, the chefs and other members of Sodexo, BIDMC, and Harvard, and the goal of providing sustainable seafood in BIDMC was closer to reality. The transition will require a lot of flexibility and creativity on the part of the chefs, but ultimately, it will serve to increase the wellness of the hospital community. In the end, enhancing wellness should always be a hospital’s ultimate goal anyway. Wellness in this case refers to seafood’s nutritional value as well as the trust consumers place in the hands of their food providers and the health of the marine environment. When institutions that sustain us, such as BIDMC, promote this inclusive form of wellness, individuals become increasingly healthy and connected to the local and global communities that support them.