LeAnna Joe of Mountain Village sorts food purchased with American Seafoods’ community development funds

When many Alaskans see fleets of large Seattle-based boats fishing in Alaska waters, they fear they will take the bulk of their fish and head home without looking back.

One company – American Seafoods  – is part of an effort to give back to  Alaska communities, and make sure they benefit from the industry in their backyard.

“It started because we recognize that our livelihoods and what the company is trying to do is really based on cooperation from the local Alaska communities. And this is about us supporting those Alaskan communities that are helping us do what we do.” 

Margery Schelling leads American Seafoods’ marketing strategy and innovation teams.

Since 1997 the company has donated nearly $2 million to over 100 Western Alaska communities through its community development fund. Top priorities, she says, are making sure people have enough food and addressing critical social needs.

“It can be things for food and fresh produce for shelter residents, safety equipment, or starting a food bank. We did a pet supportive pet companion program for senior citizens and individuals living with disabilities. So it’s really a grassroots program across Western Alaska supporting the needs of the community, as are recommended by the community.”   

Calls for donations go out twice a year that each total $45,000. Applications are reviewed by a community advisory board, and over 1,700 needs have been served so far, including the simple need for such things as playground equipment.

Schelling says people in communities that receive the funding are quick to share their thanks.

“When you donate and people just write you that note saying how important it was to their community, and that how it makes them feel connected to these local communities. And I think that’s really important because fishing is really critical to our livelihood. But it comes down to the communities and the people behind them and making sure that you can make a difference in their lives.”

Company president Inge Andreassen said “as responsible citizens, supporting the well-being of Alaskan communities is a way of giving back. It’s as simple as that.”

American Seafoods maintains a fleet of six vessels to fish for a variety of species in sustainably managed fisheries of the North Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea, focusing primarily on wild Alaska Pollock and Pacific Hake.