Crab Feeds Snapping Up Funds for Bay Area Organizations, Growing in Popularity


Courtesy Fremont Union High School District Foundation

Who knew the crab—that red crustacean with the big, pinching claws and beady eyes—would provide such tasty, and lucrative, fundraising and community-building events for Bay Area organizations?

The delectable white meat provided by California Dungeness crabs packs in thousands of people to a growing number of charity crab feeds this time of year, which are turning into one of the top ways for groups like school support organizations, youth sports leagues, police and fire organizations, churches, among others, to raise much-needed funds.

The events also serve as a way to bring communities together as beloved annual traditions. Despite ticket prices of $50 or more per person, the feeds are flourishing during the economic downturn.

“It’s always been a fundraiser, it’s always been a money maker, but really it’s to get people together,” said Justin Greene, who’s been in the business of crab feeds since the mid 1970s. Justin’s Crab Company provides fresh, ready-to-eat Dungeness crab to hundreds of charity feeds, mostly January through March.

In Cupertino, the Fremont Union High School District Foundation (FUHSDF) is expecting 600 to 700 people to consume about 1,900 pounds of crab provided by Greene’s company, from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., on April 5, in the De Anza College Gym.

Tickets are currently selling for $40; they are $50 at the door. The price includes parking, a meal of crab, pasta salad, green salad, bread, and a gourmet vegetarian Indian meal option, plus live music, live and silent auctions, student exhibitions, and more.

“In our case it’s a really big social event,” said Barbara Juhl, this year’s FUHSDF coordinator. “It allows teachers, parents, and administrators from all five schools to come together.”

The one night, plus corporate sponsorships, brings in approximately $100,000 to the foundation, she said. Ticket sales alone bring in $60,000. The money goes to programs the district does not fund at its five high schools, like STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs, School Loop (online posting of homework and grades that helps students and parents track progress), science equipment, the robotics program, among others.

This is the 14th year of the FUHSD crab feed, and every year it picks up more momentum, Juhl said.

Popularity is Growing

Crab feeds have been around for several decades in the Bay Area, but they’re now growing in popularity all over California, and even other Western states.

“It used to be Northern California’s little secret, basically in the San Francisco Bay region,” said Greene, who runs Justin’s Crab Company with a partner. “It’s really exploded from where it was in the early 80s.”

Thanks to former Bay Area residents who moved to other regions, Greene said he’s now providing crab and other foods for feeds in Southern California, Denver, and Idaho.

Here in the Bay Area, individual crab feeds have grown from small events, to large-scale affairs like the FUHSDF feed.

“I have story after story of little groups that started out with 50 people, and now it’s 500,” Greene said.

He said his business is growing, despite the economy, partly because the feeds are such good fundraisers and can make up some of the money lost to budget cuts.

‘They’re a Nice Event’

Both Greene and Juhl said the limited availability of crab—it’s only available fresh in California approximately between November and June—make crab feeds something people look forward to.

“People like crab, and they can only get it this time of year,” Juhl said.

And when people “come through the door” of a crab feed, they know the money is going to a good cause, said Greene.

Greene also said he thinks the events are popular because they are great family events where everyone, from parents to children, can get involved as volunteers with various activities.

“What has evolved from just eat a crab feed, rub your belly, and go to bed,” has grown into events that include silent, live, and online auctions, raffles, music, and more. “Just all kinds of ideas that get people excited,” he said. “They’re a nice event.”

To purchase tickets for the FUHSDF Crab Feed on April 5, see the foundation’s website.