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Updated: May 6, 2020

Luke’s Lobster, fishermen's co-ops launch partnership for front-line workers

Courtesy / Luke’s Lobster Tad Miller, left, a fisherman from the Tenants Harbor Fisherman's Co-op, and Michael Cushman from the Port Clyde Fishermen's Co-op, are seen here at the wharf in Tenants Harbor. 

Maine-based Luke’s Lobster is partnering with four fishermen's cooperatives and Cabot Creamery to make and deliver over 500 servings of lobster lasagna this week to front-line workers in the coronavirus crisis.

The cooperatives include Tenants Harbor Fisherman’s Co-op, Cranberry Isles Fishermen’s Co-op, Port Clyde Fishermen’s Co-op and Friendship Lobster Co-op. 

Cabot Creamery is a Waitsfield, Vt.-based co-op of 800 dairy farmers throughout New England and New York.

The idea came from Tad Miller, a fisherman from the Tenants Harbor Fisherman's Co-op.

“He wanted to do something for front-line workers, so we reached out to the other co-ops, and to Luke’s, to see if we could pull something together,” Josh Miller, Tad’s nephew and president of the Tenants Harbor group, said in a news release. “Everyone was excited to participate.” 

Deliveries are expected to be made this week and next week to caregivers at Falmouth by the Sea, a rehabilitative services facility; Maine Veteran's Home, a retirement home in Scarborough; and possibly Tall Pines, a retirement living facility in Belfast. 

Each co-op donated two crates of lobster for a total of 720 pounds of whole lobster. Cabot Creamery plans to donate 120 pounds of cheese and Luke’s will donate all other ingredients, and then produce and deliver the food.

“When we started thinking about what we could make with the donated product, we wanted to feed a lot of people while still making something irresistible and comforting,” said Ben Conniff, Luke’s chief marketing officer and co-founder. “All good comfort food includes cheese, so reaching out to Cabot Creamery, a co-op and a fellow B Corp, seemed like a perfect fit.”  

“There’s no better feeling as a dairy farmer than knowing that the food from your farm is nourishing the people in your community so we are truly happy to partner with Luke’s and the fishermen’s co-ops” Jenni Tilton-Flood, one of Maine’s Cabot Creamery dairy farmers, said in the release.

Tilton-Flood’s husband is a co-owner of Flood Brothers Farm in Clinton, Maine’s largest dairy farm.

Jenni Tilton-Flood is seen here at Flood Brothers Farm, a member of the Cabot Creamery cooperative.

The project follows Luke’s Lobster’s previous donation of over 2,000 lobster rolls to hospital workers since the outset of the pandemic.

“We began donating lobster rolls to hospital workers and at-risk populations the week of March 16,” said Conniff.

At the time, Luke’s still had its shacks open in many cities. 

Luke’s operates 25 restaurants nationwide, including its flagship location in Portland.

“So we were making lobster rolls in our restaurants and donating them to hospitals around the country,” Conniff said. 

Maine recipients included Maine Medical Center and Northern Light Mercy Hospital in Portland and Southern Maine Health Care in Biddeford. 

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Luke’s has temporarily closed all its restaurants across the country, with the exception of Portland Pier, which is offering seafood curbside pick-up options.  

“Since we closed all shacks outside of Maine, we've converted to shipping lobster roll kits to many of these hospitals from here in Maine,” said Conniff.

The lobster roll donations occurred with the help of supporters.

“Once we started donating, we had a few guests call in and ask if they could buy rolls for us to donate,” he said. “We realized we could greatly increase our impact, and also get some desperately needed revenue, if we reached out to our fans and asked them to buy donation rolls at a discount for us to ramp up our hospital donations.”

Pandemic operations

In late March, Luke’s launched an e-commerce site to sell seafood direct to consumers in the 48 continental U.S. throughout the pandemic. 

The company plans to reopen its processing facility in Saco sometime this month. The Saco facility opened in 2012 to supply Luke’s own sites along with other restaurants and retailers, including Whole Foods Markets.

“We are committed to being there for our fishermen as reliable and steady buyers,” Luke Holden, the company’s co-founder and CEO, said.

“We are working to identify and adopt best practices to begin processing lobster again in May. We have the necessary PPE for our teammates and are building the procedures and training modules necessary to bring teammates back to work. We have markets looking for our lobster products and have fishermen that want to go fishing, so we must solve the production part of the equation.”

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