UWA gets 21 tons of sweet potatoes

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 12, 2005

LIVINGSTON-The Wesley Foundation campus ministry on the University of West Alabama made those driving by do a double take Friday. That’s because early yesterday an 18 -wheeler dumped 42,000 pounds of sweet potatoes in their driveway.

The collection of sweet potatoes was a joint effort of the Wesley House and the Society of St. Andrews to gather food for less fortunate families.

Rev. Cherie Meadows, Campus Minister, said she was contacted by the Society last week and agreed to help the organization out.

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“Laura called me and asked if we knew what they were and what they do,” Meadows said. “She said they needed a place to dump 42,000 pounds of potatoes and I said they could do it here.”

Meadows said she has always wanted to become involved and saw this as a wonderful opportunity.

“I have wanted to become involved with this group since I have been at UWA for the last four years,” Meadows said. “I think it is a great opportunity and a great time to be able to chip in and let them use our space.”

Laura Guffin, program coordinator for the state of Alabama, said the group has been in existence for 25 years and focused on using food that may go to waste. Guffin said there were many occasions where perfectly good food was left to rot because it may not be the right size or shape.

“People who have plenty of expendable income would not buy this food because it may not look as good as some of the other,” Guffin said. “In doing that we throw away an obscene amount of food. There is no need for hunger in America because there is too much food that is left in the fields and never picked.”

Guffin said they operated mostly off volunteers who performed a variety of tasks.

“We work through volunteers and have volunteer groups all over the state of Alabama,” Guffin said. “We also take groups actually too farms and pick what farmers leave on the vines.”

The society has only been in Alabama for a short time, but has made a big difference. Guffin said they were approaching the 1 million pound mark.

“Since we opened in January today’s total should put us over 700,00 pounds saved this year alone,” Guffin said. “It really is amazing when you stop to think about it.”

The group works mostly with organizations like the Wesley Foundation to distribute food. Guffin said this allows them to reach more people in a timely manner.

“We distribute primarily through agencies and churches rather than directly to individuals,” Guffin said. “The churches and agencies are already working with the people and know them so the distribution is so much easier to do it that way. If we do have individuals come up that is fine and we will get them enough for their family.”

The group is able to do this on a very small budget. Guffin said all the food is donated allowing them to feed families for the bare minimum.

“All of the produce we use is donated so we have no expense in getting the food,” Guffin said. “By working with local farmers who let us take what they can’t use we are able to feed people at about a penny a serving.”

Because of their huge volunteer base, about 94 cents of every dollar donated is used for food distribution. These numbers are phenomenal when compared to most other nonprofit groups.

Guffin said they are very proud of their organization and were glad to spread information about how they can help other communities.

“We are always willing to visit any civic group, or congregation,” Guffin said. “If people would like to get involved all they need to do is e-mail me and we can arrange a speaker or get them started.”

Guffin can be reached by calling (205) 838-1927 or by e-mailing gleanal@endhunger.org.