Idaho spuds donated to western food banks

Teaming with Idaho potato farmers, LDS Humanitarian Services is distributing potatoes to food banks throughout the western United States.

For the project — the second such effort by the Church in four years — 2.6 million pounds of farm potatoes will be cleaned, sorted and boxed, said Roger D. Brown, LDS Humanitarian Services manager. After the process, which eliminates potatoes not fit for consumption, 1.6 million pounds (800,000 from Idaho farmers and 800,000 from the Church-owned potato farm in Idaho) of fresh produce will be donated to 19 food banks in nine western states.

"The Church will fund transportation from the farms to the processing facilities, packing and delivery to food banks from Texas to California," said Brother Brown.

The effort started when Idaho farmers and brokers found they had a potato surplus, caused in part by Mother Nature and by the nation's low-carb diet trends.

"It is a great united effort to try to improve the economy of the potato growers," said Scott Searle, a potato farmer and broker who explained that as excess potatoes are diverted into "B markets" the price of the potato yield improves for farmers.

"We really appreciate the Church and their efforts and their contribution," he added. "It is a great thing. Hopefully, it will help the needy."

Sharon Downing, director of Catholic Community Services in northern Utah, said the program is helping a lot of people. Her program is slated to receive a semi-trailer full of potatoes every other month throughout the summer, she said. The first load is already helping some of the 100,000 people fed by CCS in Ogden, Utah, every year.

"Anyone can come and get the potatoes," she said. "We are spreading LDS potatoes over northern Utah. . . . It is a wonderful, wonderful program."

In addition to donations to western food banks, the Church and Idaho potato farmers are also teaming to produce dehydrated potato flakes that will be donated internationally as the Church responds to emergencies worldwide. For the project, farmers will donate 3.6 million pounds of potatoes. Processors — who are offering their services at a "greatly reduced price" — will produce 600,000 pounds of dehydrated potatoes from the product. The Church will fund transportation from farms to processing facilities, dehydration and mixing, packaging and the final destination freight costs, said Brother Brown.

The Church "views this as a wonderful opportunity to partner with farmers, processors, local food banks and international organizations to provide these very welcomed potato products to people in need of food," he said.

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