The Great Potato Harvest 2022
Over 10,000 pounds of potatoes are on their way throughout Wyoming through the Food Bank of Wyoming after the 2nd annual potato harvest at the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center (SAREC) last Saturday, September 24th. The potato harvest is a partnership between two University of Wyoming Extension programs, SAREC, and the Cent$ible Nutrition Program (CNP), along with the Food Bank of Wyoming, with the aim of getting Wyoming grown produce to families facing food insecurity in the state.
“The potato harvest is a natural partnership between CNP and UW Extension Agricultural Experiment Stations, like SAREC,” said Mindy Meuli, CNP Director. “This is an incredible opportunity to connect locally grown food from SAREC to the families CNP serves in Wyoming.”
This year’s harvest was made possible through the efforts of more than 30 volunteers who spent the day bagging potatoes. To help with the harvest, CNP and SAREC turned to community partners, including the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture, Life Sciences, and Natural Resources graduate students and faculty; faculty and staff from UW Extension and SAREC; master gardeners; church youth groups; and women from the Wyoming Women’s Center.
“It is wonderful to see people coming together to serve all of the communities across Wyoming. These locally grown potatoes will now be able to be shared with people in need throughout the state. With the severe challenges communities are facing to provide for their families, we are thankful for UW Extension, SAREC, and CNP striving to help fight against hunger,” said Samantha Maxwell, Programs Representative at Food Bank of Wyoming.
Last year, nearly 6,500 pounds of potatoes were donated from the field at SAREC to the Food Bank of Wyoming. This year, 10,920 pounds were donated, exceeding the goal of10,000 pounds.
“SAREC is glad to collaborate with the Cent$ible Nutrition Program and many local volunteers to make this happen,” said Brian Lee, Research Scientist at SAREC. “This continues to be a good program for the state and local communities. We appreciate all of the help from the SAREC staff growing and harvesting the potatoes and we look forward to continuing this in the future.”
The potatoes are grown as part of UW outreach efforts at SAREC. CNP and SAREC connected to consider the feasibility of donating the potatoes around the state, with the first donation happening in 2021.
Fresh produce can add variety to the staples food pantries are able to offer to patrons, but can also be risky due to spoilage. Local produce can help with offering the freshest produce possible. Produce like potatoes are beneficial because of their long shelf life and hardiness when it comes to transportation.
“We are thankful to the University of Wyoming Extension programs, SAREC, and the Cent$ible Nutrition Program, for the donation of locally grown potatoes to benefit our Wyoming neighbors in need. With higher inflation and fuel prices, many families are seeking food assistance for the first time, so these potatoes will be a welcome addition to our distributions to Hunger Relief Partners this fall,” said Rachel Bailey, Executive Director of Food Bank of Wyoming.
The potatoes from SAREC will be available for food pantries and other partners to order through Food Bank of Wyoming. Additionally, they will be distributed by mobile food pantries throughout the state to reach more rural areas. CNP is working with local food pantries to connect patrons to recipes and resources for using and storing potatoes safely.
CNP is the SNAP-Ed and EFNEP program in Wyoming, serving people with limited resources through nutrition education and local partnerships that help make the healthy choice the easy choice. The connection with SAREC is one way CNP partners with organizations in Wyoming to help put more healthy food within reach for neighbors facing food insecurity.