Surplus is silver lining for food bank


02 June 2022
Price drop and export ban in Canada has a happy ending for food rescue group

THE potato is a real 'comfort food' for Canadians this year. While most food items saw price increases over the past year, the potato dropped by 6.1% according to data from Statistics Canada.

But the reason for the price decrease is far less comforting, and relates to an issue on Prince Edward Island, widely reported by Potato Review, which started in October.

At that point two potato fields on Prince Edward Island discovered warts on their crop. The fungus spreads through soil, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency was quick to reassure that it is harmless to humans. However, the warts reduce yields and affect the appearance of the tubers.

The federal government suspended PEI potato exports to the US and the US later followed with its own ban, which accounts for about 40% of PEI’s table and seed potato business, leaving growers with what the PEI Potato Board's Marketing Director, Kendra Mills, described as a “humongous” surplus.

To offset some of the blow to growers, a perishable food rescue group that has worked with PEI growers for years asked the federal government for funds to buy some of the potatoes. The government then earmarked funds in a $30-million top-up to its Emergency Food Security Fund so organisations such as Second Harvest could buy and transport surplus potatoes to food banks and other emergency food-service groups across Canada.

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Second Harvest allocated around $4 million for the potatoes. Three to four trucks are making deliveries daily, with a total 10 million potatoes projected to be rescued by June, according to Lori Nikkel, Second Harvest’s CEO.

Some of the potatoes have gone as far as Yukon, said Kirstin Beardsley, CEO of Food Banks Canada, which expects to spend about $1.5 million. They’ve delivered about 66 truckloads of potatoes across the country, including to the Ikurraq Food Bank in Nunavut, which treated its clients to poutine, alongside caribou and stew. The potatoes were first trucked from P.E.I. to Manitoba, then flown to Nunavut.

That amounts to about 3.6 million pounds of potatoes. Kirstin expects to reach 70 truckloads by the end of June.

Source: The Star

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