Members from Mastery Charter School’s Fishadelphia club gathered in the school’s cafeteria Saturday afternoon for Fishadelphia’s inaugural Cook-Off event, in which customers and students prepared fresh monkfish for a prize.
Members from Mastery Charter School’s Fishadelphia club gathered in the school’s cafeteria Saturday afternoon for Fishadelphia’s inaugural Cook-Off event, in which customers and students prepared fresh monkfish for a prize. Additionally, side dishes, such as rice and potato salad, were provided and made by the school cooking club. The event featured three judges, Mastery Thomas English teacher Kelli Williams, Mastery Thomas 10th grader and Fishadelphia club member Charlisse Johnson and Fishadelphia customer Quan Blanche, who determined the winner of the best monkfish dish. The award went to Pennsport resident Erme Maula, who made a monkfish curry. Additionally, everyone in attendance was able to taste all the dishes and vote in the “People’s Choice” category, which was won by Master Thomas math teacher Peter Ruggiero’s prosciutto-wrapped monkfish with chimichurri sauce.
“We’ve invited friends and customers to prepare fish any way they want and compete for a prize,” said the program’s founder, Talia Young, who is also a postdoctoral research associate in Princeton University’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
Fishadelphia is a new community-based fishery program, which launched its pilot program in February. To date, it has helped dozens of Philadelphians in South Philly gain access to tasty fresh fish. Each week their customer base has increased.
According to Young, the way the fish industry typically works is that fish farmers will sell the fish they catch to a fishing dock, which sells it to a wholesaler, who sells it to a retailer, which consumers purchase fish from. Fishadelphia cuts out the middleman by purchasing the fish directly from the dock, which results in lower prices for consumers. The trade off however, is that Fishadelphia can only sell whichever fish is freshest from the dock, meaning that consumers won’t consistently get the same type of fish every delivery.
“People were asking us what are we getting next time, and I’m like ‘I don’t know because we’re going to get whatever is freshest,’” said Young. “Being a wholesaler, you try to provide a consistent product to somebody. That’s not what we do. It allows us to buy really fresh products at low prices.”
Fishadelphia is similar to the popular community-supported agriculture initiatives that provide people with fresh produce from local farmers. Fishadelphia’s goals are 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, according to a press release for the program.
“It both tastes better and the goal is to provide some basic economic developments to both ends,” Young added. “Fishermen make more money and it’s cheaper to buy it. We provide fresher fish at lower prices.”
“When you think of seafood its normally like ‘oh crab, that’s a little expensive,’” said Charlisse Johnson, a Master Thomas 10th grader who is a member of the Fishadelphia club. “But we want them to think…that they can still get that food at a great quality while still being pretty cheap.”
“I think the best thing about this club is that we are learning how to start a business,” said Fishadelphia club member and Mastery Thomas student Peter Chen. “Basically why I went here is that if my dream jobs don’t go as planned, I can learn to be an entrepreneur to be successful.”
For more information about signing up for Fishadelphia, visit Fishadelphia.com. The cost is $20 per week for a whole fish and $24 for a fillet. Porgy, flounder, mackerel, dogfish, skate, clams, squid and crabs are a few of the different types of fish customers can expect to pick up. Customers pick up their bi-weekly fish deliveries on Thursday evenings between 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m at Mastery Thomas.