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General Manager Mike Butler (center) helps out behind the oyster bar at the opening day of Santa Monica Seafood's Wilshire Boulevard store on Monday afternoon. Tuesday, Santa Monica Seafood will be donating crates of food and other products to the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank to help the needy. (photo by Brandon Wise)

DOWNTOWN — When Jeremiah Higgins contemplated moving the Santa Monica Seafood Co.’s storefront from its Colorado Avenue address to the new Wilshire Boulevard location, there were a few kinks inherent in the transition. A big question was what he would do with almost $10,000 worth of product sitting in large panels in his storage facility.

“I’ve brought in quite a few new products and I have other products I’m not going to carry anymore,” said Higgins, director of operations for Santa Monica Seafood Co. “I didn’t know what to do with it, to sell it at a lower price or what.”

But Higgins had been hearing stories about troubles at the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank, an organization to which the Santa Monica Seafood Co. routinely donates unsold bread. This sparked an idea.

The company is donating all $10,000 of food to the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank today as part of its transition to the new space on 10th and Wilshire.

Donations run the gamut from bread and cheese to gourmet sauces for seafood and cooking utensils.

“I’ve seen quite a few stories about how it’s hard for them to keep their shelves full because of the tough economic times, so we wanted to help out,” Higgins said.

Darren Hoffman, communications director for the foodbank, said that a donation of that size will go a long way toward meeting the ever-increasing demand during the economic slump.

“Demand has gone up over 40 percent and our food volume has gone up only 25 percent,” Hoffman said. “We distributed 39 million pounds of food in 2008 but demand is still outpacing that. Our agencies are always looking for food, so this is great.”

Economic circumstances forced the foodbank to look for food in new places, such as bringing in fresh produce from the Central Valley, a task which incurs new transportation and storage costs. Regular donators are tapped, and nonperishable goods and proteins like those donated by the Santa Monica Seafood Company are in high demand.

Individuals who want to donate food or money to the foodbank can go to http://www.lafightshunger.org to locate a nearby pantry.

Trucks will be running the donated food from the Colorado facility to the foodbank from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. today as business at the Wilshire storefront goes into its second day.

The 1,700-square-foot Colorado facility housed the Santa Monica Seafood Co. for 40 years. The new Wilshire store is 5,000 square feet with an oyster bar and 64-foot showcase that lets the company offer 70 species of seafood.

A cafe, run by Scott Leibfried of Hell’s Kitchen, offers patrons the opportunity to cook their purchases to order on-site.

news@smdp.com

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