Potato Donation Distributes Thousands of Potatoes to Iowans

By Christy Aumer, Reporter

Volunteers help distribute over 40,000 pounds of free potatoes from 9 a.m. to noon at the Salvation Army, 1116 Gilbert Court on Saturday, November 17, 2012. Many volunteers came from St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, 4700 Johnson Ave. NW and local Boy Scouts of America. Volunteer Don Naggatz believes he will see over 300 cars during the potato donation. (Christy Aumer/The Gazette)

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By Liz Blood

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Over a dozen volunteers gathered at the Iowa City Salvation Army to distribute over 40,000 pounds of free potatoes from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.

A line of over 20 cars had formed before volunteers had the opportunity to unload the truck of pallets full of 10 pound bags of potatoes from Whitting, Wis. “It was so far backed up,” volunteer Don Naggatz, 58, said. “The need is out there.”

Naggatz has volunteered at the potato donation for the past 20 years. He’s seen a lot of changes: from hauling 100 pound bags of potatoes, to smaller 10 pound bags into trunks of various vehicles, to noticing much longer lines, indicating an increased need among the public. He said one of the great things about the potato donation is that people come from all over Iowa to give to their local community. One of the first trucks to pull up was from Keokuk, volunteer Art Kistler said. Oftentimes, people will collect bags of potatoes and donate to their town’s food bank, or other organizations.

61-year-old Dean Greazel collected about 10 bags of potatoes to give to various family members and friends. He has been partaking in the potato donation for the past five years, he said you can’t beat free potatoes.

Many of the potato donation volunteers were from St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, 4700 Johnson Ave. NW, and local Boy Scouts of America. Cheryl Simmons, 46 of Iowa City and her four boys, have been volunteering at the potato drive for the past four years. Simmons said it’s a great way to get out and volunteer with her family. “They think it’s a lot of fun,” Simmons said. “They try to see how many they can carry; they’re so full of energy.” Fortunately, they usually run out of potatoes before they get too tired, she said with a chuckle.

St. Mark’s United Methodist Church received donations and help from various organizations to make the potato donation possible, such as Aero Rental and Stusman’s Inc. that provided free forklifts and trucks. The church got started with the potato donation project through a national organization, the Society of St. Andrew’s, who helps find a place for potatoes that would not be sold in a stores, but are still safe to consume. “Potatoes they would normally throw away because they are too big, or too small,” Kistler said.

Naggatz believes potatoes are one of the most versatile foods around and can last a long time if stored correctly. "Last guy I talked to still had potatoes from the last potato donation,” Naggatz said with a laugh.

Before 10 a.m., volunteers had gone through tens of thousands of potatoes, leaving only three pallets left of potatoes to give away.

“You sure are sore by the end of the day,” Naggatz said.

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