In November, The University of Findlay’s Enactus team donated 438 pounds of potatoes to the Findlay City Mission and another 1,700 pounds of potatoes to Chopin Hall. Group members didn’t purchase the potatoes from a grocery store or ask for drop-off donations. Instead, they gleaned potatoes that were left behind after the Schutz family harvested their local potato crop for the season.
UF students Justin Schutz and Nathan Schutz, as well as their Grandmother Rachel Schutz, whose family donated the remainder of their potato crop, used a piece of farm equipment to dig up the potatoes, and more than a dozen Chinese and American students hand-picked the potatoes that were left on the ground. If left overnight, the exposed potatoes would have frozen and gone bad, so the timing was important in order to harvest a good crop for the food pantries. Schutz’s grandmother also helped the group by providing potato sacks and gloves for the workers.
The post-harvest food collection was part of the Enactus team’s From Wasting to Saving project, which is funded through an $800 General Mills Harvest for Good grant.
Through General Mills Harvest for Good, Enactus teams work with businesses to launch or improve a sustainable food waste diversion program to redirect excess produce to local food banks or pantries. Teams work with the businesses to promote their food waste diversion initiatives, improving the business’ image as one that is socially responsible and cares about its local community and the environment.
The Findlay team is working to collaborate with farms and restaurants to reduce their food waste and simultaneously help places like the Findlay City Mission and Chopin Hall. Students will develop plans for each cooperating business, while keeping in mind the business’ revenue goals and expenses.
For Man Ying Xu, who helped write the grant application, the experience was memorable both from a business perspective and from an international perspective. “I was surprised there are so many potatoes left in the field that would be wasted if we didn’t pick them and donate them,” she said. “It was a brand new experience for all of us, since most of us hadn’t seen Ohio potatoes before.”
“My hope and intent, and the team’s, is to learn more about this industry in Ohio – the relevant contact people, growers, contractors, etc. – to create a process to channel more of this leftover production to food banks,” said Gregory Arburn, PhD., Enactus adviser. “Most times, with the exception of donations, food banks have to buy food to give to others. This program can help to reduce food bank food costs and free up funds for other needs.”