POCATELLO – Idaho Farm Bureau Federation members started distributing 1,100 50-pound bags of potatoes to food banks across North Idaho this week.
CountyFarm Bureau organizations from throughout North Idaho pitched in to come up with the money to purchase the potatoes from Southeast Idaho. Producers are suffering through an almost complete shutdown because restaurants and food service companies quit buying because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has caused great pain for potato growers and processors, who suddenly have a lot more supply than demand.
“We wanted to help out the potato industry, which has been impacted by the outbreak and has a glut of potatoes, while at the same time help supply food banks with an important product,” said Bob Smathers, an IFBF regional manager in North Idaho who is coordinating the project. “There is a big demand up here for food and that demand has increased over the last six weeks.”
The first semi-load of potatoes was delivered to the Kootenai County Fairgrounds. Food banks in Coeur d’Alene started picking up their share of the spuds, while Smathers and IFBF Director of Commodities Zak Miller delivered the rest of the potatoes this week to other food banks.
A total of 18 food banks as far north as Bonners Ferry and as far south as Grangeville got potatoes delivered. “The food banks were really excited about it,” Smathers said. “One that will get 126 sacks said it would last two weeks and another food bank that will get 230 sacks said that’s about a three-weekly supply for them.”
Smathers said the county Farm Bureau organizations plan to deliver more potatoes to food banks in the area in about three weeks.