Weighing in at over 40,000 pounds, this heavyweight champ is surely a player one wouldn’t want to contend with, but local organizations, groups and students at the College of William and Mary cannot be deterred by even the most daunting of challenges.
The 40,000-pound champ is actually an 18-wheeler filled to the brim with 50-pound bags of potatoes. The potatoes provided hundreds of pounds of food to local Virginia food kitchens and shelters and even some staff at the College Saturday at the William and Mary Campus Ministries and Society of St. Andrew’s twelfth annual Potato Drop.
“This has grown into a multistate — if not national — organization that provides millions of pounds of free food,” Campus Minister Max Blalock said. “These potatoes are coming from a potato farm that had leftovers. SoSA gleans the leftovers and brings them here to us.”
Promptly at 8 a.m. in front of Morton Hall, groups of volunteers were awaiting the arrival of the potato-filled truck. Munching on doughnuts and drinking apple juice — refreshments provided by the Campus Ministries — scores of people milled around, said their hellos, and checked in with the event planners.
“This year’s recipients will include the Foodbank of the Virginia Peninsula, the Central Food Bank of Virginia in Richmond, A Gift From Ben, the Grove Christian Outreach Center, Vibrant Life Ministries and many small church-operated food programs,” Holley Walling, a retiree on the Board of the Wesley Foundation and the Potato Drop’s coordinator, said.
Representatives from these organizations arrived bright and early as well, waiting with trucks and trailers to be filled with the donated potatoes. Each organization was allotted a specific number of bags beforehand in order to expedite the process of unloading and reloading, as well as to ensure that they had enough food to provide sustenance to all of the people for whom they would be cooking.
“My favorite part of the event was working together with so many campus and community organizations,” Heather Morris ’12 said. “It was a good opportunity to work together for a good cause and meet new people.”
Over 40 million Americans go hungry, yet there is plenty of food available to them that simply is not being utilized. Twenty-five percent of food grown in the United States is never made available to eat and is then viewed as excess or unmarketable, and so it is dumped into landfills. Of the marketable food that is sold in grocery stores, consumers throw away 96 billion pounds each year.
Given this large amount of waste, the goal of the Potato Drop at the College — and similar programs all over the country — is to find this excess food and bring it to people in need.
“Seeing the entire community from William and Mary and Williamsburg coming together to do such a good thing is so important. Hopefully we are raising awareness too,” Blalock said.
Loading and unloading a truck bursting with potatoes is no small feat and could take hours, but with a plethora of willing volunteers and the entire Warhill High School baseball team, the process only took around an hour and a half.
“I think the Potato Drop went really well, overall,” Morris said. “There was a bit of a snag with the [delivery] truck being late, but everyone pulled together and accomplished a lot.”