Students Distribute 45,000 Pounds of Potatoes

News Story: March 30, 2007

Students Bring 337,500 Potatoes to Campus to Feed the Hungry

Sacred Heart University students unloaded 45,000 pounds of potatoes from a tractor trailer recently and distributed them to local food banks, churches, soup kitchens and homeless shelters, creating a rare opportunity for such service organizations to provide fresh produce to their clients who often receive non-perishable items.

Sacred Heart is the first university in the state to host a Potato Drop, a project of the Virginia-based Society of Saint Andrew – a faith-based, non-denominational, non-profit hunger-relief organization that matches growers who have surplus produce with agencies that distribute meals and bags of groceries to the hungry.

“It’s a two-fold project. It’ll educate students about hunger in our area and help satisfy the need. There’s so much need. There’s so much hunger,” said Kaitlin Connell, a freshman English major from Bedford, Mass. and one of four student coordinators of the Potato Drop for Sacred Heart’s Service Learning Office.

“Even though Fairfield County is one of the wealthiest communities in the nation there’s still a large need for food and shelter,” said sophomore Megan Polis, a computer science major from Patchogue, N.Y. and another coordinator.

About 36 million people in the United States are “food insecure,” according to Carol Breitinger, communications director for the Society of Saint Andrew, which has distributed 526.1 million pounds of fresh produce since initiating the Potato Drop in 1983, 11 million pounds of potatoes in 2006 alone.

“There’s need everywhere. No matter how affluent the community, you’re going to find some people in need. The working poor, at the end of the month, don’t have enough for groceries, especially with the cost of gas and energy,” Breitinger said.

The Potato Drop would not be possible without the collaboration of several organizations, said Phyllis Machledt, director of Service-Learning & Volunteer Programs at SHU, and overall coordinator of the event.

“This is a true collaboration. Saint Andrew arranges for the grower and the truck to arrive, Golden Hill United Methodist Church in Bridgeport is paying for the truck expenses, which is approximately $1,700, Sacred Heart has the space and volunteers and the Council of Churches has a list of hunger outreach partners,” Machledt said.

Students unloaded 900 50-pound bags of potatoes from the truck. Stations were set up for the agencies, about 70 in all, to pick up their potatoes. Students delivered  potatoes to those agencies unable to make the trip to campus.

Connell said 300 bags of potatoes were reserved for the Connecticut Food Bank, which supplies food to agencies throughout the state. The rest went to local food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters in the Greater Bridgeport area.

The potatoes provide about three servings per pound so this load will provided about 135,000 servings for indigent people and the working poor, Breitinger said.