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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 13.3 percent of Americans are unemployed. This is continuing to put a strain on local food banks across the country.
One of the needs of food banks? Potatoes.
“Potatoes are that comfort food—they’re very versatile,” said Kelly Turner, executive director of the Michigan Potato Industry Commission (MPIC). “Whatever your religion or ethnicity is, potatoes are generally something everyone eats.”
MPIC has been working closely with the Food Bank Council of Michigan. When the pandemic first started, MPIC purchased one truckload of product. As time went on, the Food Bank Council was having trouble sourcing potatoes to stock its shelves.
“We found places that had potatoes for them,” said Turner. “We did a drive where we collected money donations from people within the potato industry to help get enough money to donate a second truckload of potatoes for people in the state who are having major hardships right now.”
MPIC donated $5,000. Donations from growers and industry partners matched those funds, totaling $10,000 for a second truckload of potatoes. Turner said these acts show selflessness in the potato community.
“The growers are really committed to producing a healthy, quality product that is affordable for everyone, and they’re committed to helping people in the state,” she said.
Potato stocks here in Michigan are naturally dwindling. Producers in the west who have abundant supplies from a lack of demand are trucking their product east. Turner said they’re not asking growers to donate potatoes because they need to stay in business.
“If we’re not paying them for their product, then they don’t have a way to put next year’s crop in the ground and get it harvested for the future,” she explained. “Having that long-game look at [the situation] is important.”
Turner added she’s received emails from people asking for free potatoes. She said not only is this request unfair for producers to give away their product, it also doesn’t make sense.
“They’re going to go bankrupt and out of business,” she said. “Who’s going to grow your potatoes next year [if that happens]? Probably a different country.”
For more on the MPIC, visit MIPotato.com.