Community-run seafood program, Fishadelphia, links city and Shore

Morgan Kelly ・ High Meadows Environmental Institute

Fishadelphia, a new community-based fishery program in Philadelphia, will launch its pilot program Friday, Feb. 9, to help provide city residents with access to fresh seafood from Jersey Shore fisheries.

Talia Young, a postdoctoral research associate in Princeton University’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, created the program to promote affordable access to high-quality food in urban communities, while also supporting local fisheries at a time when the United States imports nearly 80 percent of its seafood. Young created Fishadelphia with assistance from Atarah McCoy ’20, a sophomore in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs who worked on the initiative in 2017 through the Princeton Environmental Institute’s Summer Internship Program.

“Philadelphia is full of diverse seafood consumers,” said Young, who works under PEI associated faculty Simon Levin, the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. “In particular, Asian, Caribbean and African-American communities have strong historical and cultural relationships to a wide range of seafood.”

Summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus) Photo credit: O. Weldon

Fishadelphia customers can sign up to receive eight biweekly seafood deliveries through May 17 at the Mastery Charter Thomas Campus in South Philadelphia. The day-to-day business operations of Fishadelphia are run by middle- and high-school students at Mastery Thomas. Each delivery will contain one kind of fish or shellfish – such as porgy, flounder, mackerel, dogfish, skate, clams, squid or crabs – from fisheries or shellfish farms in Cape May, Barnegat Light and Galloway, New Jersey.

Fishadelphia is a community-supported fishery (CSF) program, which is similar to the popular community-supported agriculture (CSA) initiatives that provide people with fresh produce from local farmers. Fishadelphia aims to build connections between fishing communities on the Shore and residents of Philadelphia, Young said. The spring season will include a field trip to the working docks so that customers can experience where their fish comes from, and a season-end party where harvesters can meet the people who eat their seafood.

“My interest in Fishadelphia stemmed from my own passion for health equity and the disruption of health disparities,” McCoy said. “I was drawn to the research Talia had already done to bring healthy and affordable food options to diverse communities, and I was excited by the opportunity to assist her in establishing Fishadelphia to promote her endeavors.”

McCoy spent the summer of 2017 evaluating information from potential Fishadelphia consumers about their interest in delivery frequency, specific seafood items and other details of the program. She used those data to generate reports related to logistics and organization.

“My work taught me about the role that businesses can have in social advancement and promoting equity across communities,” McCoy said. “Interning with Fishadelphia, working with the Mastery Charter students and learning under Talia helped affirm my interest in civic values and community health.

“I continue to implement what I learned from my internship with Fishadelphia in my academic endeavors as I explore the options available for program development and social advocacy related to health equity and access,” McCoy said.

People can sign up for Fishadelphia’s spring season on the program’s website. A community discount is available to people who have a student enrolled at Mastery Thomas; to anyone who pays through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); or to people referred to Fishadelphia by someone who is eligible for the community discount.

Fishadelphia has been recently covered in the Asbury Park Press and Philadelphia magazine, and by WHYY. It is funded by the USDA Local Food Promotion Program and the David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship Program, and is a collaboration between Princeton; Community Voice Consulting; Viking Village in Barnegat Light; Lund’s Fisheries in Cape May; Heritage Shellfish Cooperative in Egg Harbor; and Rutgers University.