More than 10,000 pounds of potatoes from the second annual potato harvest at the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center (SAREC) are in distribution across the state via Food Bank of Wyoming.
The potato harvest is a partnership between two University of Wyoming Extension programs, SAREC and the Cent$ible Nutrition Program (CNP), along with Food Bank of Wyoming. The goal is to provide Wyoming-grown produce to families facing food insecurity.
CNP is a hands-on cooking, nutrition and physical activity program that serves income-qualifying families across Wyoming.
Funded by the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Program and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, CNP serves 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 that CNP partners with organizations in Wyoming to help put healthy food within reach for neighbors facing food insecurity.
“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.”
Fresh produce adds variety to the staples offered by food pantries but can be risky due to spoilage. Donating local produce helps mitigate this risk, and products like potatoes are especially desirable due to their long shelf life and hardiness during transport.
The 2022 potato harvest was made possible through the efforts of more than 30 volunteers who bagged potatoes in a SAREC field near Lingle on Saturday, Sept. 24.
To help with the harvest, CNP and SAREC turned to community partners, including graduate students and faculty from the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources; 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.
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.
Last year, nearly 6,500 pounds of potatoes were donated from the field at SAREC to Food Bank of Wyoming. This year, 10,920 pounds were donated, exceeding the goal of 10,000 pounds.
“SAREC is glad to collaborate with the Cent$ible Nutrition Program and many local volunteers to make this happen,” said Brian Lee, a 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 from SAREC will be available for food pantries and other partners to order through Food Bank of Wyoming. Potatoes will also 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.
“We are thankful to the University of Wyoming Extension programs, SAREC and Cent$ible Nutrition Program, for the donation of locally grown potatoes to benefit our Wyoming neighbors in need. With higher inflation and fuel prices, many families are seeking food assistance for the first time, so these potatoes will be a welcome addition to our distributions to Hunger Relief Partners this fall,” said Rachel Bailey, executive director of Food Bank of Wyoming.
For more information on the Cent$ible Nutrition Program, visit uwyocnp.org.