Volunteers bag potatoes at the third annual potato harvest at UW’s James S. Hageman Center for Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension near Lingle earlier this month. (UW Extension Photo)
More than 13,000 pounds of potatoes were donated to the Food Bank of Wyoming at an annual potato harvest at the University of Wyoming’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center (SAREC) near Lingle.
The potatoes are grown as part of UW outreach efforts through a partnership between UW Extension’s Cent$ible Nutrition Program (CNP), SAREC and the Food Bank of Wyoming.
CNP is a hands-on cooking, nutrition and physical activity program that serves certain income families in Wyoming. Its partnership with SAREC and the Food Bank of Wyoming connects families facing food insecurity with Wyoming-grown produce.
The first such harvest at SAREC took place in 2021, resulting in the donation of nearly 6,500 pounds of potatoes. In 2022, 10,920 pounds of potatoes were donated. This year’s harvest, which took place on Saturday, October 7, yielded 13,565 pounds of potatoes.
“This partnership has been a huge success,” says Mindy Mewley, director of CNP. “It was a natural connection between SAREC and the Cent$ible Nutrition Program. This endeavor has sparked relationships with the other UW Experiment Stations, and we will continue the collaboration that supports the delivery of Wyoming-produced food to those in need.”
Potatoes have already started making their way into Wyoming food pantries. They are available free of charge to hunger-fighting organizations that partner with the Food Bank of Wyoming.
“The local fresh potatoes were such a surprise in the food box this month,” says a patron of the Pine Bluffs Senior Center. “I appreciate the extra help our local and state agencies are providing.”
Meanwhile, CNP is working with local food pantries to connect visitors with recipes and resources for safe potato use and storage.
“Potatoes are a staple in our pantry, so this large donation of them will go such a long way in helping the students, staff and faculty who come to us,” said Jess Dooley, UW food security coordinator. “We are very grateful to everyone who contributes to the potato harvest each year.”
Brian Lee, SAREC Senior Scientist, and Steve Paisley, Center Director, led the efforts to plant, grow and harvest the potatoes. Lee also helped coordinate with local food pantries and volunteers.
In addition to Lee’s family and SAREC staff members, the 2023 harvest crew included volunteers from the Wyoming Women’s Center in Lusk; CNP and UW Extension staff; graduate students from UW’s Department of Family and Consumer Sciences and Department of Chemistry; students enrolled in a UW agricultural education course; Platte County 4-H; and Food Bank of Wyoming employees.
“This continued and expanding partnership is so important to food insecurity efforts across the state,” said Rachel Bailey, executive director of the Food Bank of Wyoming. “These Wyoming-grown potatoes are a nutritious, fresh option for Food Bank of Wyoming’s community hunger relief partners to distribute to our food-insecure neighbors. It’s great to be able to make local produce available to our partners combined with CNP recipes and resources.”
About the Cent$ible Meal Program
CNP is the SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Education Program) and EFNEP (Extended Food and Nutrition Education Program) program of the USDA in Wyoming. CNP serves people with limited resources through nutrition education and local partnerships that help make healthy choices the easy choice. The annual SAREC Potato Harvest is one way CNP partners with Wyoming organizations to help make healthy food available to neighbors facing food insecurity.