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BIDMC Chefs Launch Sustainable Seafood Initiative

National Geographic Fellow, Barton Seaver helps educate and serve up local catch

BOSTON - National Geographic Fellow Barton Seaver spent a recent morning with chefs at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) helping bring attention to a newly launched sustainable seafood initiative aimed at supporting local fisheries and the medical center's sustainability efforts while delivering wellness to patients and staff.

Seaver worked with the chefs to create a special dish made entirely from locally sourced ingredients. The slow roasted striped bass from Ipswich, MA was served over stewed zucchini and summer squash with fresh herbs from Czajkowski Farm in Hadley, MA and topped with a local corn and tomato salsa. And according to many, including Lissa Kapust, LICSW, Social Work, it was delicious

"There was such an upbeat atmosphere in the cafeteria," said Kapust, "It makes me proud to learn about BIDMC's efforts and partnerships that support local fishermen and farming communities."

A celebrated chef and author based in Washington, DC, Seaver recently left the restaurant business to work with National Geographic, shifting his focus toward wellness and sustainability as it relates to food and community "When I talk about wellness, I'm talking about a true holistic approach to understanding that we are only as healthy as our communities," said Seaver.

As chance would have it, BIDMC Director of Food Services Nora Blake crossed paths with Seaver at the Healthy and Sustainable Food for Health and Community Care Workshop sponsored by Harvard University's Center for Health and the Global Environment. As she listened to Seaver passionately speak about the dangers of overfishing and ways to support fishing that ensures the viability of the industry and the ocean, she thought, "I bet I can help change the buying patterns and eating habits at BIDMC. I should talk to this guy."

So she called him up.

Seaver agreed to come back to Boston and meet with BIDMC's chefs. Blake organized a visit to the fish pier in Gloucester, MA and a tour of the Ipswich Shellfish Company, taking the chefs directly to the source to give them a better idea of how the seafood industry works and help them learn what kinds of sustainable fish might be available on a daily basis.

A few weeks later when Seaver returned to Boston, local sustainable seafood - clams, tilapia, bluefish - had already begun making a regular appearance on cafeteria menus at BIDMC. And, the entire Food Services staff was in the process of removing cod from the menu, switching over instead to the more sustainable option of haddock.

Before rolling up his sleeves to help serve the striped bass, Seaver spent the morning with the chefs talking recipes and buying strategies. "If you ever have a question, just call me," he said. "That's the kind of resource I want to be."

Blake and Seaver hope the initiative will gain momentum and that other colleagues in the Longwood medical area will join BIDMC, Harvard and Sodexo in supporting sustainable fishing.

"I love that we're bringing local fish to our patients and staff. This is the way food should be ," said BIDMC Executive Chef Akeisha Hayde. "Basically at the end of the day we want our customers to say, 'Wow this is great fish and I got it at a hospital cafeteria.' If we can do that while supporting our local fishermen, it makes me proud."

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and currently ranks third in National Institutes of Health funding among independent hospitals nationwide. BIDMC is clinically affiliated with the Joslin Diabetes Center and is a research partner of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox. For more information, visit