If you`re ready for a pre-Thanksgiving yam fix, head toward the Virginia Tech Duck Pond this weekend. On Saturday, a truck will unload 40,000 pounds of sweet potatoes that a group of about 80 Southwest Virginia students and Virginia Tech staff will then bag to send to local food banks. The potatoes are being donated through Big-Island-based Society of St. Andrew. The nonprofit gathers rejected potatoes from farmers and vendors and sends them to food banks, such as America`s Second Harvest.
Next week, Second Harvest in Salem will redistribute the potatoes that students bag to local food banks, said Perry Martin, assistant director of service learning at Tech.Martin helped set up to the potato project for students in Tech’s Upward Bound/Talent Search programs. Those programs offer first-generation college students with academic and social activities at camps on college campuses.
The potato bagging is two-fold for them, Martin said. `I thought it was good, too, that many of these youth live in Southwest Virginia themselves`, Martin said. Some of the potatoes could end up on their plates. Often students in the program are from lower-income homes. “For these youth to understand that solutions to hunger involve a lot of different people is important`, Martin said. `I think they can see themselves as a part of the solution to it.`
This is the first time Virginia Tech has taken part in a program of this size, although different organizations have worked with the Second Harvest in past. Martin said he hopes it can take off as a regular project at the school. `We`re going to have to basically form an assembly line to get this done` on Saturday, he said. `It is going to be one of those processes where speed will matter.` Bagging the potatoes could take as long as four hours. Students, and any other person who wants to volunteer, plan to meet at 1:30 p.m. in the Duck Pond’s overflow parking lot near Oak Lane.