IGSA increases flow of potatoes to food bank
Potato leaders consider ways to help year-round
By JOHN O'CONNELL
BOISE, Idaho -- The Idaho Grower Shippers Association is considering a partnership with the Idaho Food Bank that could entail sheds sending fresh spuds to help the needy throughout the year.
IGSA President Mark Klompien said his organization has stepped up its assistance to the food bank in recent years, including through a food drive tied to ticket sales of the Idaho Potato Commission's Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
For the second consecutive year, IGSA will give the food bank three fresh spuds for every ticket sold for the Boise-based bowl game, scheduled for Dec. 15 between Utah State University and the University of Toledo.
Last winter, the bowl game resulted in the food bank receiving 42,000 pounds of fresh spuds. Klompien said his organization is making a separate $5,000 cash donation to the food bank. Furthermore, IGSA gave the food bank a third of 45,000 pounds of spuds it donated during the recent Idaho Cares Day, hosted by a local TV station to benefit charities.
Klompien said his board of directors, which includes members from seven fresh sheds, is considering ways to assist the food bank on a more continual basis. He envisions a rotation of willing IGSA sheds could be established to make fresh spud donations every few months. Klompien said the food bank would aid with transportation.
"IGSA feels very strongly about the good the Idaho Food Bank does in Idaho," Klompien said. "It's kind of a natural fit for us. Potatoes are a very nutritious food source, as well as very economical."
Peggy Grover, chairwoman of the IGSA board from Bench Mark Potatoes in Rexburg, believes her membership will support the concept, which she plans to bring up for further discussion at its January meeting. She anticipates IGSA cash donations, however, will remain only a holiday tradition.
"We have talked about giving them potatoes at least a few times a year," Grover said. "I don't know if we could promise them every month because sometimes potatoes are short. We'll see when the months are that they need it the most."
Grover believes a trucking company may also need to be recruited to help the food bank with transportation.
Julie Pipal, food resource manager with the Idaho Food Bank, said her organization has made sourcing fresh produce its primary focus.
"From our perspective this relationship with the potato industry is key because potatoes go with so many of the foods we receive in donations," Pipal said.
Where the food bank's average client sought food assistance for three to six months five years ago, Pipal said more people now require help for a year to 18 months.
The IPC has also prioritized fighting hunger. IPC President and CEO Frank Muir said for every signature collected by the organization's Great Big Idaho Potato Truck outside its bowl game, the organization will donate a dollar to the local Meals on Wheels chapter, up to $2,500.