The less fortunate in the community were treated Friday to a lunch of tilapia in a citrus and papaya sauce at the Everyday Cafe location in Cape Coral.
Island Coast High School students enrolled in the school's Academy of Natural Resources harvested their first tilapia and herbs of the school year Thursday. In a partnership with the Community Cooperative Ministries Inc., which owns the cafe, the harvest was donated to help feed the hungry.
According to officials, CCMI is a nonprofit organization made up of social service entrepreneurs fighting to end homelessness and hunger locally. The agency provides more than 15,000 meals a month through its programs.
Island Coast teacher Joseph Mallon, who oversees the Academy of Natural Resources, said that this is the second year they have donated to CCMI.
"We did it a couple of times last school year," he said.
Along with tilapia, other items that the students have grown, harvested and donated include lettuce, tomatoes, cabbage, beans, cucumbers and herbs.
"This year, we're going heavily into sprouts," Mallon said.
The Academy of Natural Resources focuses on aquaculture, aquaponics, alternative energies, ecological restoration and environmental stewardship. The program uses fish farms, indoor and outdoor hydroponics and more.
"We're training people not to do the same things the same way," he said. "We've got to be able to feed ourselves, we've got to take care of ourselves, but we've got to feed the planet at the same time."
This is where the partnership with CCMI comes into play.
"The community support for CCMI is necessary," Mallon said.
"If you're familiar with Southwest Florida, you're familiar with CCMI," he said. "It was just a natural fit for what we do."
The academy prepares students to work but also give back.
"They can still go out and earn a living, and still be great stewards of the planet," Mallon said.
The Academy of Natural Resources is in its fifth year at Island Coast. The students grow the fish, produce and herbs, harvest them and prepare them. For example, they put the fish on ice, fillet, weigh and then package them.
He noted that they learn sanitation and safety procedures, as well.
"We run a business from start to finish," Mallon said.
Students come out of the program with experience and options.
"We've got kids going to Ivy League and others going right out there to work," he said.
For Friday's lunch, ECHO donated fruits and vegetables.
"In general, it's how we try to get together and help the less fortunate," Mallon said, adding that the students love donating their harvests.
"It gives them that sense of pride, actually," he said.