In what has been termed a “sweet potato drop,” some 40-thousand pounds of sweet potatoes will be unloaded, free for the taking, from a tractor trailer truck into the parking lot of St. Luke United Methodist Church Wednesday morning at 8:30 a.m.
The sweet potato drop is part of a larger effort to feed the hungry coordinated by the nationwide “Society of St. Andrew” which takes leftover, unmarketable or unneeded produce and distributes it to the hungry.
The so-called “gleaning” organization, headed in North Carolina by Director Kristy Nash, was established 33 years ago in Virginia, and last year distributed 12.3 million servings of produce in the Carolinas alone.
“We are very excited that these churches have volunteered to host a (sweet potato drop),” said Nash of the partnership between St. John and St. Luke United Methodist Church in Laurinburg.
The Society is benefiting from an exceptionally large donation of sweet potatoes — approximately 66 40-thousand pound truckloads — after a large Eastern North Carolina farmer was looking to clean out his warehouse following last year’s fall harvest.
“This is actually the largest we’ve gotten at one time,” said Nash, who reported that there have already been 15 drops across North Carolina similar to the one that will be held in Scotland County on Wednesday. There are a further six slated to take place before the end of the month.
Pastor David Blackman of St. Luke is hopeful that the Scotland County community will respond to the offer of free sweet potatoes and help the church clear its parking lot.
“We are responsible for them,” said Blackman with a chuckle at the thought of 40-thousand pounds of sweet potatoes sitting in his churches parking lot.
Looking to make sure they don’t sit for long, Blackman and the members of both churches are using all means at their disposal to get out the word about the drop.
“We’re using Facebook, telling the media, and we’re hoping that there will be a wildfire in the gossip community that will help,” said Blackman.
“That’s one of the blessings of a small town — word travels fast.”
Blackman said that the church has already received 1000 mesh bags from the Society of St. Andrew to assist with the bagging of the potatoes for those that may need them on Wednesday.
Asked about the birth of the idea, Blackman said that he was contacted by St. John’s church about joining forces on the drop, and immediately agreed to take part in the novel project.
“Now we are only left to invite the entire community to come on out and get some potatoes — we have over 30-thousand people in the county, and approximately 40-thousand pounds of potatoes, and that sounds like a great ratio,” said Blackman.
The Society of St. Andrew works year round to dispense the food it collects to organizations across the country with the help of armies of volunteers.
“What we glean from fields we give to food banks, church food pantries, senior housing — anybody in need, really,” said Nash of the organizations goal.
Last year the ecumenical Society of St. Andrew coordinated with 10,000 volunteers and 800 volunteers to distribute the food.
As part of its continuing effort to feed the hungry, St. Luke currently hosts a food bank every second Saturday.
St. Luke is located on 1501 Turnpike Road in Laurinburg.