Community bags more than 10,000 pounds of local sweet potatoes for area’s hungry

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Heather Mann

CULLMAN – The Society of St. Andrew (SoSA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing hunger and food waste, hosted a sweet potato drop at the North Alabama Agriplex Saturday morning. Approximately 10,000 pounds of sweet potatoes were gathered up and bagged by more than 100 volunteers from SoSA, the Agriplex, TriGreen, the Cullman First United Methodist Church youth group and the community at large. The potatoes, from generous area farmers, including those from Haynes Farm, were then redistributed to hungry area families through various local organizations.

SoSA coordinates places for all of this produce, donating to local agencies such as Cullman Caring for Kids, Victim Services of Cullman, First UMC’s Knapsacks for Kids and Hispanic ministry, The Caring Center, The Crossing and many more. 

“These agencies gladly distribute fresh produce to their clients. The agencies appreciate giving out fresh produce,” said Rachel Dawsey, North Alabama Agriplex director.

SoSa hosts drops like this any time a farm has excess produce that wouldn't be cost-effective enough to harvest and sell, and sweet potatoes aren't the only food they work with. They have done drops for cucumbers, squash, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, and just about any other produce that farms are willing to donate, and all donations are sent to local churches, children's homes, senior centers and food banks.

SoSA has been doing these drops for two years, with the amounts of food and volunteers increasing more than 3,000 percent since Hannah Kren was put in charge of the program. Last year the Society donated more than a million pounds of food in Alabama alone, and they've set their goals for 2017 at 1.25 million. Kren says that they were in need of farms willing to donate their excess produce and pointed out that those donations can give farms tax credits. Mandy-Shea Riggins, another member of SoSA, says that they were also in need of volunteers, at least for the Cullman drops. They average about 100 people per event, but sometimes they struggle to even get 10.

Kren says that one of the biggest things people need to know is that hunger is a very real problem in America. "We tend to think that, because we're a first-world country, everything is dandy, but there are a lot of people that do struggle. And it is a hard thing to see, since people tend to be very proud and they don't want to admit that they need help," she explained.

About one in four families in Cullman County is food-insecure, and St. Andrew looks to the community to help reduce that number.

"About 90 percent (of the food) stays in Cullman County, so if they help us they're actually helping local organizations," Riggins told the Tribune. "It's local people helping local people, and we need more people."

To learn more about the organization can go to www.endhunger.org, and farmers who want to donate can contact Kren at 205-245-3214 or at ALglean@endhunger.org.

 

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