Inaugural ‘Potato Drop’ a Success

| March 4, 2008

There were a lot of sore arms and backs at Sweet Briar College on Sunday, March 2.

For several hours the day before, 45 members of the Sweet Briar community hauled, dragged, stacked and distributed 25 tons of potatoes in the College’s inaugural “Potato Drop.”

In all, 50,000 pounds of edible but unmarketable white potatoes – approximately 200,000 servings – were distributed to local and regional organizations that feed the hungry.

Linda Shank, VP for communications and strategic initiatives, dressed up like Mrs. Potato Head for the occasion.

The volunteers, which included students and faculty and staff and some of their family members, arrived at the Bistro parking lot at 8 a.m. Within the hour, half of the potatoes had been unloaded, prompting senior Laura Gandy to remark, “Goes to show you, if you accrue enough ladies you can do anything.”

The effort was accomplished in conjunction with the Society of St. Andrew. The non-profit organization makes its headquarters in Big Island, Va., and, according to its Web site, salvaged and distributed more than 11 million pounds of potatoes and other produce to hungry Americans in 2006.

At Sweet Briar, the original plan was to distribute 42,000 pounds of potatoes, but when the 18-wheeler loaded with spuds arrived from Maine, it was carrying an extra 8,000 pounds.

“Fortunately, the food banks were able to top off their loads, and Lynchburg’s Daily Bread actually made a second run, taking over 5,000 pounds, rather than the 750 they had originally asked for,” Tom Loftus, assistant professor of business, said in a follow-up e-mail to one of the local newspapers.

In addition to The Daily Bread, recipients included God’s Storehouse in Danville, Va., the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, Nelson County Food Pantry, the Salvation Army and Noah’s Ark Ministries, Inc., a food bank in Washington, D.C.

Noah’s Ark volunteers Leotha Woodson and William Marshall, left the District at 3:30 a.m. Saturday morning, bound for Sweet Briar.

According to Woodson, Noah’s Ark provides food to more than 40 organizations, including churches, food banks and soup kitchens. Six days a week, they also serve bread to 200 people a day, most of whom live in D.C.’s subsidized housing projects.

A printer by trade, “Brother Woodson,” as he prefers to be called, said most of the food comes as donations from grocery stores. This was their first load of potatoes in four months. “This is something they really need – a staple,” he said.

The food banks were not the only beneficiaries of the Potato Drop. The students, many wearing pink work gloves, seemed to have a good time re-bagging potatoes from 50- to 10-pound bags, creating human assembly lines to load the vans and panel trucks, and hauling the heavy sacks from the tractor trailer by hand when necessary.

“[It was] exceptionally well organized,” Chaplain Adam White said. “The students showed their natural sense of organizing themselves, jumping in wherever help [was] needed.”

Gandy also was pleased with how everyone came together. “I was impressed with how much of a community we seemed like,” the psychology major from Waynesville, Mo., said. “Like one big family.”

Classmate Tiffany Meadows ’08, a German major from Hopewell, Va., said the Potato Drop inspired her to do future non-profit and volunteer work. “It was very great, just working together to help provide for people who really need this,” she said.

— Suzanne Ramsey

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