LATHROP – Find the fish and you can feed the people.
That’s what Lathrop Vice Mayor Christopher Mateo has believed all along.
When he announced during a council meeting that he was trying to secure an allotment of salmon from a regional fish hatchery that could be distributed to seniors and low-income families, it seemed like a far-fetched idea.
But on Friday morning he got to see the fruits of his labor as more than a hundred people lined up in the parking lot of Luis Super Mercado on Louise Avenue to take home an average of 15 pounds of the nutrient-rich fish for free.
It was the perfect ending to a scenario that started with a single idea.
“Helping the community is what I wanted to do all along,” Mateo said. “Anybody who can come up with an idea like that has the ability to make it come to fruition. I saw it as an opportunity, and it was one that worked out.”
Mateo heard from somebody else that after the hatcheries harvest the eggs and send a portion of the fish back to the Department of Fish and Game for research, that they either dispose of or distribute the remainder of the salmon.
So he put Lathrop’s name in the hat and crossed his fingers.
Once they got drawn, he teamed up with Mayor Joseph “Chaka” Santos and Tosh Ishihara and went to pick up their fresh catch. Using Santos’ pickup and a bin he secured, they lined it with tarps and filled it with ice – covering the fish before they placed it in a cooling locker on a Ripon ranch the night before they were to proceed with distribution.
The turnout was exactly what they had hoped for.
“There were old people, young people – everybody was in line to get their salmon,” Santos said. “People were so happy to see this in Lathrop – some of ‘em even had tears in their eyes.
“We wanted to show people that caring starts right here at home before it goes abroad or anywhere else.”
According to Mateo, another allotment might already be in the pipeline and could arrive as soon as next week – giving those in the community that didn’t make it for the initial giveaway the chance to come and pick up the free salmon he envisioned for Lathrop residents.
“I thought about the valley and the things that we have here and how they can be given directly back to the community,” Mateo said. “This is an example of that.”