Brunswick’s Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association is donating monkfish stew to the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program’s annual holiday meal Saturday, Dec. 23. Jacqueline Clark photo courtesy of Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association

Monkfish stew will be featured on the menu of Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program’s annual holiday supper Saturday, Dec. 23. This is the third year running that Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, a Brunswick-based nonprofit, will donate 50-60 servings worth to feed the community.

Monkfish, a groundfish whose appearance has earned it the nicknames “frogfish” and “sea-devil,” wouldn’t be most people’s first choice off the menu. Not unexpectedly, they’re hard for fishermen to sell. That has been changing over the past few years, thanks in large part to the fishermen’s association.

In 2020, the association started a program called Fishermen Feeding Mainers to buy local fishermen’s catch of groundfish such as hake, flounder, cod, haddock, pollock and monkfish, and donate it to food pantries, schools and community organizations. Groundfish, or fish that spend the majority of their lives on the ocean floor, can be caught using gillnets, a method that avoids damaging the seabed and reduces bycatch.

Over the past three years, Fishermen Feeding Mainers has put $1.2 million into the fishing industry, funded by a mixture of grants, donation and foundation support, and COVID relief funds — yielding 650,000 pounds of groundfish that MCFA has then brought to local tables.

“Some of the feedback we got when we first started donating fish was that it was tricky to know how to prepare monkfish,” said Susan Olcott, operations director at Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association. “It’s a little bit different in its texture than some of the flaky white fish people are more familiar with, like cod or haddock. So, we decided to make something easy to serve to introduce people to monkfish — and that led to the stew.”

MCFA now sells thousands of packages of monkfish stew every year, made with Maine monkfish by Hurricane Premium Soups and Chowders in Greene, with proceeds benefitting the Fishermen Feeding Mainers program.


Steph Sykes shows off a monkfish she caught off Cape Cod. The Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association sells stew made from monkfish in close to 70 locations across Maine, using the proceeds to help pay for continued donations to schools, food pantries, and community groups from their Fishermen Feeding Mainers program. Courtesy of Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association

In the case of MCHPP’s holiday meal, monkfish stew sold in close to 70 Maine stores funds monkfish stew distributed to Mainers. Heather Arvidson, program director at MCHPP, said she expects staff and volunteers to give upwards of 75 packaged holiday meals to Midcoast families on Dec. 23 — including a cup of monkfish stew to any who would like it.

“There’s often hesitation when trying something new,” Arvidson said. “But I think a lot of the guests see how this is an opportunity to try a fish that’s locally sourced that they’ve maybe never had before.”

“We do have to explain what monkfish is to folks,” she said. Telling them it comes from the MCFA, “which is a group people have heard of and want to support,” helps.

MCHPP distributes about 150 meals a day, except holidays. Most are available for pick-up at 12 Tenney Way in Brunswick, while some are delivered to low-income retirement homes in the surrounding area.

“This time of year has so many added stressors for community members,” Arvidson said. “Not only is there the expectation to provide gifts to kids, but now you have to pay for heat and oil — things that you don’t have expense-wise throughout the rest of the year are now added to the stress of the holiday season. … One of the reasons I just feel so passionate about Midcoast hunger in the work that we do is that in a time and in a country where life can be very, very difficult, we try to make at least one part of people’s lives easier.”

Olcott, who originally moved to Maine from Missouri to attend Bowdoin Collage, came to MCFA with a background in marine science and similar goals.


“When I first moved to Brunswick, I started volunteering at MCHPP,” she said. “Before I had my kids, I would cook there every couple of weeks for their hot meal and just loved it. Now, it’s really neat that it has come full circle and I get to reconnect with MCHPP professionally as well.”

Fishermen Feeding Mainers has delivered close to a million meals to Mainers struggling with food insecurity since its inception in 2020. What’s more, Olcott says she has seen fishing boats that were landing in Gloucester or New Bedford more regularly bring their catch to Maine since the program launched. When fishing boats land in Maine, she explained, it supports the “entire working waterfront, including businesses that supply ice, bait and fuel, as well as people like dockworkers and processors — it really supports the whole seafood supply chain.”

As for the stew, Olcott said, in her household, it’s become somewhat of a staple.

“I brought home some leftover monkfish stew from an event and asked my kids, ‘Do you want mac and cheese for dinner or monkfish stew?,’ and they said, ‘We want stew!’ ”

“That is the best sales pitch ever,” she said. “Stew over mac and cheese! It made my heart sing.”

Free meals are available from the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program at 12 Tenney Way in Brunswick between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from noon to 1:30 p.m. Saturdays. Monkfish stew will be available Saturday, Dec. 23. All meals are served to-go. 

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