By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
Volunteers turned out Friday morning to Cummins Family Produce in Twin Falls to load boxes of potatoes to local food pantries in the Magic Valley.
The 8,000 pounds of spuds sent to feed the hungry in the valley was a representation of the 36,000 pounds of potatoes Idaho growers are donating to the Idaho Foodbank.
The donation is the final portion of Idaho Grower Shippers Association's commitment of a full-truckload donation to the Foodbank as part of Community Cares Days in December. IGSA members had already donated 28,000 pounds of potatoes.
Potatoes were also donated by Magic Valley Produce, Arrowhead, Sun Valley Potatoes, Mart Produce, and Southwind Potatoes.
Friday's donation was loaded into the vehicles of local food pantries and soup kitchens by volunteers from Cooper Norman.
Foodbank representatives were grateful for the donations.
"This means so much to us. We can feed so many; this is just awesome," said Carmen Ortiz, secretary for the Center for Prayer and Worship in downtown Twin Falls and the manager of its food pantry.
The church's pantry is open three days a week, feeding 900 people, and it's always packed, she said.
"We definitely count on donations," she said.
The church received 12, 50-pound boxes of Idaho potatoes, which will be distributed in bags of 5-, 10-, and 15-pound lots. Ortiz said they will be gone by Monday, demonstrating how great the need is for donations.
The Salvation Army in Twin Falls will use the potatoes in its soup kitchen's daily lunches and in emergency food boxes, said Nicki Kroese, the agency's business manager.
The agency was down to its last 50 pounds of potatoes and found them frozen in the basement yesterday, she said.
"We're so excited" to be getting the potato donation, she said.
Idaho potato growers are excited about the opportunity to feed Idaho's hungry, said Mark Klompien, executive director of Idaho Grower Shippers Association.
It's a great thing to be able to donate these potatoes. It fits well in the arena of hunger relief because potatoes are very nutrition and because of their economic value, he said.
Cummins Family Produce, itself, donates at least 10,000 pounds of potatoes a year to area relief agencies, said manager Lance Cummins.
The recipients are always happy for the donation, and Cummins works with them to provide the size of potato to help them maximize their hunger-relief efforts, he said.
The 8,000 pounds of potatoes distributed on Friday is enough for 6,240 meals to Magic Valley recipients, said Laurie Lickley, food resource coordinator for the Foodbank and a Jerome cattle producer.
In 2012, The Idaho Foodbank distributed 1.45 million pounds of food in the Magic Valley and 12.2 million pounds statewide, she said.
Idaho Foodbank: www.idahofoodbank.org
Idaho Grower Shippers Association: www.idahoshippers.org