Fifty pounds of frozen sockeye salmon arrived at the Kenai Senior Center on Wednesday afternoon, the first shipment of what will be 300 pounds of salmon donated to the center’s senior meals program by the commercial fishing trade organization Alaska Salmon Alliance.
Senior center director Rachael Craig said the salmon will be served once a month during the Senior Center’s Wednesday lunches, which are open to the public, and also fed to home-bound seniors enrolled in the center’s meal delivery program.
Craig said the salmon meal was originally suggested by Kenai senior Howard Hill, who after seeking a source of local donated salmon secured the donation from the Alaska Salmon Alliance. She said that salmon has nutritional benefits, particularly for seniors, for whom it supplies anti-oxidants, proteins, and oils.
“Some people say it helps brain-power,” Craid said, of salmon. “But it helps your skin and provides the oils for your body, for your joints.”
Senior Center cook Melissa “Missy” Bailey agreed that the salmon would be nutritious.
“It’s lean, good in protein,” Bailey said. “Gosh darn pretty much no hormones, no antibiotics, that sort of thing. Right out of Cook Inlet.”
After opening the box of frozen salmon, Bailey said she was happy to find it already filleted and pin-boned, which she hadn’t been expecting. She had planned to fillet and bone the salmon herself.
Salmon Alliance executive director Arne Thomson said the donation was fitting, given the senior center’s location.
“Here we are on the Kenai River,” Thomson said. “You’ve got major seafood processing plants right here in Kenai. And we think we should be making good, high-quality sockeye salmon available to our senior citizens.”
Thomson said the Salmon Alliance includes drift-netters and set-netters, but is made primarilly of seafood processors, including Snug Harbor and Great Pacific Seafoods. Thomson said it was the processors who had decided to make the donation “because they end up with the product.”
Thomson said the Alaska Salmon Alliance was doing “a lot of public outreach … on the importance of the seafood industry” that includes salmon donations to communities. Previous recipients from the Salmon Alliance have included Palmer, Big Lake, which served donated salmon to victims of the Willow Wildfire, and the city of Kenai, which used it to feed guests at Governor Bill Walker’s February inaugural ball in Kenai.
The Kenai Senior Center’s first salmon donation was delivered by Thomson, who said that Salmon Alliance president Paul Dale would also have attended if Dale hadn’t been meeting with governor Walker, who earlier in the day spoke to a joint luncheon of the Kenai and Soldotna Chambers of Commerce. Kenai mayor Pat Porter was also at the delivery, which was preceded by a photo-op featuring a senior center meal delivery driver in a tuxedo holding a packaged meal on a silver tray.
Bailey said she was considering preparing the senior center’s first salmon meal with terriyaki glaze and sweet mustard. However, she had several other meal ideas as well.
“I could do a seafood stuffing with salt and pepper,” Bailey said. “And barbecuing is nice, but I don’t have a real big barbecue, so I’ll probably end up baking it or pan-frying it. But I like the stuffing idea.”
Bailey said she planned to prepare 75 pounds of salmon for the first two salmon lunches, and estimated that on each occasion she’ll serve around 130 dishes, including the home-delivered meals.
“When we put salmon on the menu, you know they’ll show up,” Bailey said.
Craig said that seniors and members of the public will have their first chance to feed on the donated salmon sometime next month.
Reach Ben Boettger at firstname.lastname@example.org.