Potato Project Feeds Hungry in Franklin Area
About 40 laity and clergy volunteers turned up at Franklin Industrial Park on St. Patrick’s Day morning to unload about 43,000 pounds of potatoes in 50-pound sacks from a tractor-trailer, then pack them into waiting vehicles for delivery to area food pantries, churches and other agenices that feed the hunger.
“Each year, funds are given from churches throughout the Conference for this project. It is coordinated by the Franklin District,” said District Superintendent George Porter. “An entire tractor- trailer load of potatoes is brought in through the Society of St. Andrew (SOSA) for the cost of transportation. This is one more way that we, as United Methodists, are engaging with the needs of others.”
SOSA salvages tractor-trailer loads of potatoes and other produce that are rejected by commercial markets or potato chip factories due to slight imperfections in size, shape, sugar content, or surface blemishes. Usually, the rejected loads end up at local landfills.
This year's potatoes came to Franklin from the State of Maine, said the Rev. Stephanie Thompson, pastor of Center and Nicklin UMCs, who coordinated The Potato Project. She took over the coordinator role two years ago from the Rev. Dave Holste, who handled it for about 20 years.
While the potatoes are free, the churches fundraise to provide the approximately $3800 needed for packaging and trucking, she explained. To raise funds, churches used a variety of methods: sponsoring a dinner, receiving a special mission offering or soliciting local businesses for a tax-deductible donation. One, Thompson said, used small potato sacks during a fall “ingathering’ and dedicated the funds on Thanksgiving Sunday.
There were 26 churches or organizations who received potatoes this year, Thompson said. “I have two church members, Myrna Cornmesser and Kimberly Bega, who connected in February with our list of ongoing recipients of potatoes. The list includes churches with ongoing, outreach ministries, as well as food banks, food pantries, and The Salvation Army. Myrna and Kim reaffirmed with each church or organization their needs based on the previous year's distribution, adjusted it as necessary and assigned them a time for pick-up.”
Thompson said in the past two years, she has seen a tremendous increase in need for the potatoes. “The organizations that have been receiving potatoes for many years are serving many, many more families than previously -- some as many as three times their original numbers,” she explained. “As well, I have become aware of many other such organizations in The Franklin District who are not receiving potatoes at this time who I am sure would be very-appreciative of the help.”
With that in mind, she added, “I will be meeting with Myrna and Kim in the coming weeks to assemble a list of these possible organizations and to make connections to see what their needs are and how we may be of help to them in the future. I am hoping that we may secure the necessary funds to receive two tractor-trailer loads next year!”