Mashed potatoes, potatoes au gratin and other tuber-based dishes are the core of many people’s holiday festivities.
But even in its simplest form, the basic food staple can also be a lifesaving boon to family dealing with food insecurity.
Grace United Methodist Church in Franklin will distribute 42,000 pounds of potatoes at its first-ever Potato Drop on Nov. 17. The men’s ministry at the church will open a semitrailer and pass out as many bags of tubers as they can.
Church leaders wanted to do something different to help needy families in the area and help ease hunger.
“For us, as people are going through the holidays, it’s another reminder that we have a beautiful community that wishes to help others,” said the Rev. Andy Kinsey, lead pastor at Grace. “We’re going to provide a way for people to receive these potatoes.”
From 8 to 10 a.m., organizers will pass out 10-pound bags of potatoes to anyone who comes to the church. The bags are free to anyone who shows up, Kinsey said. They don’t need to bring any proof of their need.
A portion of the potatoes will be distributed to the InterChurch Food Pantry and other local food organizations helping the poor.
The idea for the Potato Drop came to Kinsey from a friend, who had heard of similar events through the Society of St. Andrew. The international ministry aims to end world hunger through a variety of programs.
Volunteers glean farm fields to recover produce that otherwise would be left to rot. They work with food producers to obtain fruits and vegetables that are edible but don’t meet their top quality standards.
The Potato Drop is another one of the Society of St. Andrew’s efforts to feed the needy. Kinsey and others in the men’s ministry felt it was a fitting way for them to help tackle the hunger problem in Johnson County.
“Plus, the timing is very good. It’s right around Thanksgiving, so we’ll be able to provide a partial meal for people,” said Harry Miller, a member of the Grace men’s ministry. “It would be nice to provide a complete meal, but this is at least a way to reach the whole community.”
Miller has been organizing the distribution effort, figuring out everything from a traffic pattern to division of labor to the 25 volunteers expected to help with the drop.
To have the potatoes shipped from Maine and packaged, the church had to pay $4,000. The church has been accepting donations to cover those costs for the past month.
Organizers also conducted Spud Fest, a fellowship event that featured a baked-potato bar, to raise funds. Donations are still accepted.
Grace United Methodist Church is the first church in central Indiana to take part in the potato drop, although it has been done in other parts of the state.
If it is successful this year, it could be an annual charity put on by the church, Kinsey said.
“It’s just another way to reach out to the community and a different way of doing it,” he said.