One Fish, Two Fish

There is something special about walking through the doors of Miriam’s Kitchen, a leading hunger-relief organization that works to end chronic homelessness in Washington D.C. The smells wafting from the kitchen of freshly cooked meals, and the hustle and bustle in the dining room demonstrate their commitment to dignity, belonging, and making real change in the community. The passion for cooking delicious meals radiates from head chef, Emily Hagel. She believes that serving homeless residents meals made from scratch is empowering and can “change lives.”

Hagel adds, “Eating is a basic human need, right alongside water and shelter. And when food is prepared with care, it is transformative.” To help Hagel cut costs and ensuring that their food is of high nutritional quality, the Wide Net Project donates blue catfish to Miriam’s Kitchen with the help of My Organic Market (MOMs), a natural foods grocery chain across the mid-Atlantic. Typically for every pound sold of WNP blue catfish sold, one portion is donated by WNP to a community hunger-relief agency such as Miriam’s Kitchen. But MOMs goes above and beyond and doubles that. They make no profit on the sale of this fish and instead double the donation. For every pound sold at a MOMs location, a half a pound of fish is donated to feed our neighbors in need.

The most recent donation of blue catfish was transformed into a Po' boy, breaded with panko and cornmeal, oven “fried,” and served on a soft baguette with corn salsa, pickled okra, roasted poblano-garlic aioli, and local heirloom tomatoes,” Hagel explained. While the menu sounds potentially expensive due to its sophistication, Chef Hagel is very conscious of her price per meal. Donations such as the blue catfish allow her to prepare restaurant-quality meals using local ingredients — while ensuring she stays within budget. Miriam’s Kitchen serves 150-175 guests in their dining room every weeknight for dinner daily, and each meal costs Miriam’s Kitchen under $0.45 on average.

This donation could not have been possible without MOMs purchase of blue catfish. Chris Miller, MOMs’ Regional Coordinator for Produce, Meat, and Seafood, buys blue catfish through the Wide Net Project because it “fulfills our company’s purpose to protect and restore the environment while also supporting the cause of food access.” Thank you to MOMs for facilitating the donation of nutritious blue catfish so that Miriam’s Kitchen can continue to fight chronic homelessness and hunger in our nation’s capital.

This post was written by Haley Baron, WNP's go-to for outreach and communications.

Cause and Effect

When 4P Foods, a Washington, a D.C.-based farm-to-table food delivery service buys Chesapeake Bay blue catfish, it provides more than just a satisfying meal for its members; it also provides a meal for those who need it most. Tom McDougall, founder of 4P Foods, regularly purchases Wide Net Project blue catfish for 4P members. "It tastes darn good," he says, adding “local food procured from awesome people usually does." With the proceeds from this purchase, the Wide Net Project is able to donate fish to Mckenna’s Wagon, a dinner service program run by Martha’s Table. "[The donation] is a great treat because it is very rare that we serve fish due to the number of meals we serve and the cost of fish," said Hannah Hall, Martha’s Table’s Food Procurement and Knowledge Manager.

Typically proteins, especially fish, are out of budget for hunger-relief organizations. Martha's Table buys whole ingredients in order to prepare healthy meals from scratch, and meals can become quite costly, says Hall. With the donated catfish, Hall can stretch her food budget to cover additional services. “We make 300 meals a night, and donations such as this fish allows us to allot the money that would have been spent on protein to something else, maybe produce or supplies to serve the meal,” added Afiya Howell, MT's Deputy Director of Prepared Foods. Martha's Table's kitchen staff cooked up the catfish a couple of weeks ago for dinner. Hall shared that "the community truly enjoyed the donation. We seasoned, battered, and fried the fish, then placed it on whole-wheat buns. The best fish sandwich in town." 

This community connection propels McDougall forward in achieving his business's mission, as well. “I buy this fish because it represents the kind of food system we want to help strengthen and build.” Through fish, WNP is supporting and creating links among for-profit businesses, non-profit community organizations, and consumers across the region (4P members and Martha’s Table clients alike). It's a fish with impact.

This post was written by Haley Baron, WNP's go-to for outreach and communications.

How Green It Is!

Good news alert!

Today the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program awarded a green seafood recommendation, the highest recommendation rating attainable, to the Chesapeake Bay’s blue catfish. The green rating indicates that the Seafood Watch program recommends the blue catfish as a “best choice” in seafood, meaning consumers should preferentially purchase the fish. The Chesapeake Bay blue catfish is the first invasive species nationally to be assessed and rated by the Seafood Watch program.

Achieving a green rating is significant for the Bay region in that it can help spur purchasing of the fish, fueling economic development and the removal of more fish from the water; this is critical to the mission of the Wide Net Project, which is why we initiated this rating process, a year-long endeavor.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program encourages consumers and businesses to purchase seafood that is fished or farmed in environmentally conscious ways. Since 1999, the program has evaluated the sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture operations across the globe. They share the resulting seafood recommendations with the public and businesses to guide smart purchasing and transform the seafood marketplace in favor of environmentally-conscious operations. The green rating awarded to the blue catfish is the highest of three possible rankings, followed by the yellow (good alternative) and the red (avoid) rankings. The Seafood Watch Program makes these recommendations according to an extensive set of criteria. The full report can be read here.

The Seafood Watch assessment was made possible through funding to the Wide Net Project from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources via the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Implementation Grant program. This couldn't have happened without their support and vision for the future of this fishery and the watershed.

Yet another reason to buy Chesapeake Bay blue catfish!

Our New 'Do

WNP has grown since its launch almost two years ago, and it was time for a fresh look to reflect our fresh perspective. Our commitment to hunger relief and conservation of the Chesapeake Bay is the same, but there are nuances to our approach that we want to be sure are reflected in our website. So please, click on and enjoy our new site! Or watch on if you'd like to sit back and enjoy our new video instead.

Special thanks are due to Black Eye Productions, the visionary team who brought WNP to life in video, and to Bent Creative, the creative duo who made this website sing.

Truly Beyond Bread

(From the archives: originally posted November 19, 2013 on WNP's previous website)

Cross-posted from Beyond Bread, the blog of Bread for the City

With lots of mixed emotion, I [Sharon Feuer Gruber] wrote a farewell letter to Bread for the City staff in July, as I moved on from being the adviser to BFC’s Nutrition Initiative. Together we challenged the way hunger relief addressed nutrition in the DC area and beyond, creating best practices that are modeled elsewhere in the region and country. None of that would have happened had it none been for my brave BFC colleagues who got behind serious nutrition standards for the food we distribute, an integrated approach to nutrition education, and innovative initiatives to increase our ability to source more nourishing foods.

The beauty of working with BFC is that even when not with staff and clients every day, the impact of the organization remains. For example, through my consulting practice, I am now collaborating with MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger on developing a national project focused on supporting hunger-relief organizations’ efforts to strengthen programs and practices around nutrition. BFC is a long-time MAZON grantee, and it is with pleasure that I note that some of the work that they supported BFC in doing is now informing the national work that we’re doing together. We are identifying best practices in innovation around procuring affordable, nutritious foods; creating an organizational culture that is committed to nutrition; conducting effective nutrition education; and more — and BFC serves as standard-bearer in so many ways. The next step will be to pilot some of those practices with a few organizations and ultimately to create a tool for use by hunger-relief groups everywhere to help them identify which practices are a suitable match for them and how to best implement them.

I also recently launched a new non-profit project that simultaneously is addressing hunger relief and environmental issues in the Chesapeake Bay. When working with BFC to secure the healthiest foods possible for the food pantries, time and again we hit a wall when trying to source delicious and nutritious animal proteins in large enough quantities. That was part of the impetus of the Wide Net Project, and you can read a recent Washington Post article about it here.

The mission of Bread for the City is clearly to help low-income residents of the District of Columbia, but its broader impact is unmistakably larger.

Jaw-dropping Delicious

(From the archives: originally posted on WNP's previous website July 8, 2014)

The Wide Net Project is all about relationships. We partner with food processors and distributors, and we rely on our customers to buy our wild blue catfish to achieve our missions of environmental conservation and supporting hunger relief. We are so pleased to be highlighting one of those relationships, that with Chef Emily Hagel, the Director of Kitchen Operations at Miriam’s Kitchen.

WNP recently had the opportunity to donate fish to Miriam’s Kitchen, a D.C.-based non-profit whose mission is to end chronic homelessness. Part of their core ethos is to treat their clients with dignity, and accordingly, they prioritize using high-quality ingredients for the meals they serve. Chef Emily used our fish from the Chesapeake Bay to create this jaw-dropping, delicious dinner:

Open-faced, oven-fried wild blue catfish sandwiches with remoulade
(made from homemade dill pickles and herbs from Miriam’s Kitchen’s herb garden)
Slaw made from carrots and green and purple cabbage
Sweet corn bread
Smokey braised collards and kale

Says Emily, “I’ve seen food change lives. It is a basic human need, right alongside water and shelter. And when food is prepared with care, it is transformative; a good meal makes a prince of a pauper. You touch someone’s food, you touch their life.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Buy Local (Blue Catfish!)

(From the archives: originally published July 16, 2014 on WNP's previous website)

We’re thrilled that the Wide Net Project’s ‘Catfish Cakes’ snagged a spot in the Seventh Annual Buy Local Cookout with Governor Martin O’Malley and First Lady Katie O’Malley. As the title suggests, the event is about promoting tasty creations to inspire buyers to go local. Featuring freshly caught Chesapeake Bay wild blue catfish, the cakes have been selected for this year’s appetizer category.

This catfish cakes recipe, created by our own Wendy Stuart, featured red bell peppers and shallots from Mark Mills’ Chocolates and Tomatoes Farm in Montgomery County and fish peppers and eggs from Emma Jagoz’s Moon Valley Farm. As for the dish itself, it offers an affordable alternative to the ubiquitous Maryland blue crab cakes. A crispy and savory opening to the meal, it offers a bit of protein, vegetables, and starch in just a few bites.

The Buy Local Cookout is held in tandem with the statewide Buy Local Challenge Week (July 19-27, 2014). During this week, all Marylanders are encouraged to eat at least one local product each day. This challenge was created in 2006 by the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission and has grown into a statewide initiative. While local movements exist throughout the country, there are few statewide examples as robust as the one held in the Old Line State.

We can’t wait to fill you in on the event, the evening of July 24. We’ll share the recipe then, too, so stay tuned!

What’s your favorite way to cook up local fish?

A Fabulous Event with Governor and First Lady O'Malley

(From the archives: originally published July 25, 2014 on WNP's previous website)

What a night! The Governor and First Lady of Maryland opened up their property to some of Maryland’s top chefs and food producers for an evening of celebrating local food, and the Wide Net Project was honored to be in the mix. With us every step of the way were our good friends at Miriam’s Kitchen, a recipient partner of the Wide Net Project. We’ve been pleased to be able to donate fish to support them in their hunger relief efforts, and we’re grateful to have had the Miriam’s Kitchen dream team with us last night, grilling up a storm of wild blue catfish cakes.

Kudos to the Maryland Department of Agriculture and all of the many people who worked so hard to pull off this beautiful event!

The Power of Relationships

(From the archives: originally published August 4, 2014 on WNP's previous website)

We first met Benjamin Bartley, the food access director for Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, when the mobile market was starting out. Benjamin stopped by Sharon Feuer Gruber’s office at Bread for the City to talk with her about how BFC approached nutrition education for low-income populations. It was before there was a Wide Net Project, and Arcadia was not planning on sourcing any fish for the time being. A few years later, the now three-year-old mobile market and the not-quite one-year-old Wide Net Project are now together bringing high-quality fish to DC residents who generally can’t otherwise afford it. You just never know how one thing leads to another.

Getting the fish to Arcadia requires skilled hands — with all the catching and cutting of the fish managed by JJ McDonnell, our processor extraordinaire in Jessup, Maryland. We are grateful that we also have Kent Island Crab Cakes on board locally to freeze and pack fillets at a reduced price to keep the price down for Arcadia customers and so that as much of the sale as possible can go to the mission of the Wide Net Project — more hunger relief and environmental conservation. It truly takes a village — or in this case, truly dedicated fish processors and distributors!

Voices of Leadership

(From the archives: originally published September 8, 2014 on WNP's previous website)

This is a cross-post from Chesapeake Bay News, written by Nick DiPasquale, director of the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program Office. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources hosted an informative event to which Nick refers, giving colleagues the opportunity to learn more about each other’s work and also bringing broader attention to the critical matter at hand — the need to reduce the non-native catfish population in the Chesapeake Bay.


Wide Net, Huge Heart

Every once in a while, one is struck by the power of a new idea. At a recent event held by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to kick off a public education campaign about invasive catfish in the Chesapeake Bay, I learned about an initiative called the Wide Net Project. The concept of the Wide Net Project is elegant in its simplicity and its brilliance.

Neither blue nor flathead catfish are native to the Chesapeake Bay. Unfortunately, the invasive species have become apex predators that feed voraciously on other fish and shellfish. In some areas of the watershed, they represent a significant percentage of a tributary’s total fish biomass. But they are also a good source of lean protein.

In this invasive catfish problem, Wide Net Project co-founders Sharon Feuer Gruber and Wendy Stuart saw a solution: the catfish could be fished out of local tributaries and used to provide low-cost protein to hunger relief organizations.

Wide Net Project staff work with J.J. McDonnell, a large seafood company, to process and distribute the catch from area anglers. Staff sell the fish to restaurants, grocers, hospitals, universities and other institutions at market price. A significant portion of these sales is used to lower the price of the fish staff then sell to hunger relief agencies, which normally can’t afford healthy, local foods. To address the health concern related to the potential accumulation of toxins in older and larger fish, the Wide Net Project markets and sells only younger and smaller blue catfish. J.J. McDonnell also recycles fish waste produced during processing into pet food.

At the DNR event, which was held at Smallwood State Park on the Mattawoman Creek, chefs cooked up samples of blue catfish. While I enjoy eating fish, I don’t think I had ever tasted catfish before that day. I tried some, and found it had a flakey white meat and a light and delicate taste. I thought to myself, one should never underestimate the power of a great idea or the ability of a few dedicated individuals to get things done. Sharon and Wendy connected the dots and inspired us all.

Note: The opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect U.S. EPA policy endorsement or action.

About Nick DiPasquale – Nick has nearly 30 years of public policy and environmental management experience in both the public and private sectors. He previously served as Deputy Secretary in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Director of the Environmental Management Center for the Brandywine Conservancy in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and as Secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

The Twice-a-Week Difference

(originally published September 30, 2014)

This is a guest post by Linda Cornish and Will Baird of the Seafood Nutrition Partnership.

October is National Seafood Month. Remarkably, only 20 percent of Americans eat seafood twice a week as recommended by nutrition experts. In fact, half of Americans don’t eat seafood at all. Most people don’t know that researchers, such as those from Harvard Medical School, have found that simply eating seafood twice a week can help reduce the risk of dying from heart disease by 30 to 50 percent. Clearly, increasing America’s consumption of seafood has a critical role in moving our country toward better health.

The Seafood Nutrition Partnership’s non-profit mission includes helping people eat more nutritiously by introducing seafood into their diets. Seafood is a crucial means of getting important nutrients like omega-3s, and, as a lean protein, serves as a good alternative to other proteins. To help combat the growing obesity crisis and heart disease’s place as number one killer in America, Seafood Nutrition Partnership launched the Eating Heart Healthy program in June, partnering with Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Roxbury Tenants of Harvard.  The program teaches women of underserved communities how to eat “FISH” – Fast, Inexpensive, Sustainable, and Healthy. Our female participants were shocked to see how low their omega-3 levels were, and they also appreciated learning about healthy seafood recipes that could feed a family of four for about $10. Their increased awareness of seafood’s low cost, good taste, and high nutritional value is supporting them on their way to eating seafood twice a week — and increasing their omega-3 levels.

The Seafood Nutrition Partnership believes that as Americans learn about how good seafood is for their health, we all will be prompted to take better care of our oceans and waters. SNP applauds the work of the Wide Net Project and invites you to learn more about us at

The Impact of Investment

(originally posted on the previous website on December 22, 2014)

Brrrrrr. It’s getting cold out! As we stay indoors and out of nature a bit more during these winter months, we think it’s still critical to appreciate the value the Chesapeake Bay brings the millions of people who live in the watershed region.

Here are a couple of impressive numbers:

  • The Chesapeake region currently provides natural benefits of at least $107.2 billion annually to the states in the watershed.
  • If its environmental plan, the “blue print” is fully implemented, benefits will grow to  nearly $130 billion annually, an increase of more than $22 billion per year.

This will benefit us all in terms of water and air purification, flood protection, and food protection, plus having beautiful places to enjoy life. Please click here to read more about the economic impact of the Chesapeake Bay.

WNP Featured by Top Food News Press

(originally posted on the previous website on July 22, 2015)

Wide Net Project is so appreciative of our recent press via Civil Eats and Food Tank.  Thanks to both for spreading the WNP message!

Civil Eats is one of our favorite news sources about the American food and agriculture system.  In publishing their stories on sustainable practices, they seek to create economically and socially just communities.  This aligns closely with the WNP mission of effecting positive change in communities throughout the mid-Atlantic through hunger-relief efforts and environmental best practices.  As such, we were truly honored to be featured by Civil Eats writer, Lloyd Ellman.  In his article, he provided a history on the invasive blue catfish and described how WNP seeks to combat the problem.  “The young nonprofit works to build a market for blue catfish while providing free fish to hunger-relief organizations in the process,” he wrote. Ellman perfectly characterized Wide Net Project’s commitment to community and environmentalism.  Thanks again, Civil Eats!

Food Tank is another food system news outlet of note; they arrived on the scene with a splash only a couple of years ago.  Food Tank seeks to create a global community for safe, healthy, and nourished eaters. Their articles highlight environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable initiatives in hunger relief, obesity prevention, and poverty alleviation, with the ultimate goal of changing our food system for the better.

We were also honored to be featured on this cutting-edge news site, and our own Sharon Feuer Gruber wrote the article.  She described how the WNP gives consumers the opportunity to become advocates simply by purchasing wild blue catfish through WNP’s distributor, since WNP donates “proceeds on sales via our partner distributor, in the form of fish, to community-based hunger-relief agencies.”  With every purchase, consumers are helping to combat the overpopulation of blue catfish in the Chesapeake Bay, supporting hunger-relief organizations, and also enjoying a delicious fish at their next meal. Thanks to Danielle Nierenberg and co. for inviting Sharon to spread this message on Food Tank’s media channels.


N Street Village Partnership

(From the archives: originally posted on WNP's previous website August 5, 2015)

At the Wide Net Project, we clearly love good, local fish, and even though hunger relief is at the core of our mission, sometimes it still takes us by surprise when a community member talks about how long it’s been since they’ve been able to sit down to a meal with fresh fish. Recently, Jewish Food Experience (JFE) volunteers prepared and served a delicious breakfast and lunch to the women of N Street Village, which supports homeless women in DC. Catfish from WNP was front and center on the menu.  JFE Director, Paul Entis, shared with us, “Incorporating the Wide Net Project’s generously donated blue catfish into the lunch menu for seventy N Street Village clients was a terrific collaboration.  Not only did JFE volunteers learn about local issues of sustainability, the women absolutely loved the opportunity to feast on fresh fish.  Many at the luncheon reflected that they hadn’t had the chance to enjoy fresh fish in years, and in some cases decades.”

We are thrilled about this new relationship with JFE and N Street Village and were honored to be a part of this special event.  N Street village serves as a community of empowerment and recovery for Washington D.C.’s homeless and low-income women.  The organization provides comprehensive services addressing both emergency and long-term needs, helps women achieve stability, and assists women with housing, employment, mental health, physical health, and addiction recovery.  Some of their services include affordable rental housing, peer mentorship, leadership programs, case management, and holistic wellness events.  Each of these programs ultimately seeks to help women feel connected and empowered.

N Street Village is certainly effecting powerful change in our community and being a part of the JFE team was a fantastic experience. Our co-founder, Wendy Stuart, will be a guest chef at an upcoming N Street Village event, and we’re very much looking forward to it!

For pictures of the event, please visit JFE’s Facebook Page.

Philadelphia's (Un)Common Market

(From the archives: originally published August 12, 2015 on WNP's previous website)

To enjoy delicious, fresh fish, it takes expert hands every step of the way from the watermen who catch the fish to the drivers who deliver it to restaurants and cafeterias. The Wide Net Project partners with food distribution partners throughout the region to make sure the Chesapeake’s blue catfish reaches the plates of consumers in five states and the District of Columbia. One of our key new partners is Common Market in Philadelphia.

Common Market distributes local foods to mid-Atlantic wholesale customers while advancing their mission of strengthening regional farms and making local foods available to their community. They connect schools, hospitals, universities, grocery stores, and workplaces to sustainable food.  Their customers also include nonprofit organizations working in underserved communities.  We are honored that the Chesapeake Bay’s blue catfish is part of their sustainable distribution.  You may be wondering, “Why Philly?”  Well, the eastern shore of the Bay is just a short drive from Philadelphia.  In fact, almost half of Pennsylvania’s water systems drain into the Bay.

Common Market maintains close relationships with the producers of their products.  They purchase from approximately 75 sources and visit each site to evaluate the sustainability and quality of their operations.  To add to their list of best practices, throughout the distribution process, Common Market works to highlight the names and places of where the food originates. They take anonymity out of the process, ensuring that their customers know exactly what food they are purchasing. Transparency and strengthening consumer connections to people and land is paramount.

Common Market utilizes an efficient model for getting nutritious, affordable, and locally produced food from the source to the wholesale customer.  Their work with non-profit, wholesale customers particularly aligns them with our hunger-relief mission.  It is a privilege to be a part of their good work.

Catfish Unfried!

(From the archives: originally published on WNP's previous website August 19, 2015)

When you think of eating catfish, do you imagine a deep-fried, crispy fish served with a side of chips and tartar sauce? Most of us do!  While this may be a southern staple (and yum!), there are many lighter way to enjoy this delicious fish, too.

Eating catfish boasts numerous nutritional benefits (salmon is not the only heart-healthy fish option!).  According to, in just one three-ounce serving, you get 220 mg of omega-3 fatty acids and 875 mg of omega-6 fatty acids, both of which are essential components of a healthy diet.  That same serving of catfish will also provide you with 15.6 grams of protein and all the amino acids your body needs!   To add to this list of nutritional benefits, Catfish has one of the lowest mercury contents of all fish and contains vitamin B-12, which helps your body break food down into energy.

Here are a few of our favorite recipes that are packed with flavor AND nutrition!  Plus, cooking catfish is quick and easy, taking only 15 minutes or so.

  1. Baked Herb Catfish by Taste of Home

  2. Louisiana Catfish with Okra & Corn by Eating Well

  3. Baked Catfish by Never Enough Thyme

  4. Pistachio-Crusted Cod Fillets by Fine Cooking: As with many cod and tilapia recipes, you can substitute catfish in this delicious recipe!  They are all flaky, white fish that hold up well in cooking.

August is National Catfish Month!

(From the archives: originally published August 26, 2015 on WNP's previous website)

Who knew? August is National Catfish Month! In the late 1980s, the United States Congress designated August as National Catfish Month to recognize the importance of this all-American product and the hard work of those who bring it to our tables. Catfish not only contributes to our economy, but also provides consumers with a healthy, delicious, and fresh-tasting fish.

We here at the Wide Net Project are excited to have a month dedicated to our favorite fish!  We thought, in honor of National Catfish Month, we’d share some fun facts about this incredible fish.

  1. Contrary to popular myth, catfish do not sting!  If handling a catfish, however, be wary of their sharp dorsal and pectoral fins.  If these puncture the skin, it can cause some discomfort.

  2. Catfish have heightened senses of smell and taste.

  3. Catfish never stop growing!  And they can live for nearly 20 years, making for some big fish.

  4. In 2012, the largest blue catfish ever caught in Maryland weighed in at 84 pounds.  The largest blue catfish caught in Virginia weighed 102 pounds!  That catch was in 2009.

  5. Spawning occurs from late May to early June.  The parents build nests for their eggs in dark, protected areas.

  6. Their barbels (whiskers) are more important than sight in finding food.

  7. Blue catfish are an absolutely delicious and healthy meal! See last week’s blog post for a few of our favorite recipes.