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Local Rotary donations are no small potatoes

'It's fantastic that a group like Rotary takes on such an amazing and innovative idea'
2022 03 25 potatoes Rotary club
Rotary members load up trunk loads of potatoes. Photo by Chris Dawson/BayToday.

Dozens of volunteers from the North Bay and Nipissing Rotary Club along with members of the Rotoract Club of North Bay-Nipissing gathered at Manitoulin Transport in the industrial park in the south end of North Bay with good will on their minds. 

Their vehicles pulled up to the loading dock where hundreds of pounds of potatoes were loaded and then ready for delivery. 

The members of the charity groups received a delivery of more than 10,000 pounds of PEI potatoes on Friday and went out to distribute them to a total of 24 organizations involved with providing food programs in North Bay, Sturgeon Falls, Temagami, South River, Burk’s Falls, and the surrounding area.

"We will have distributed 11,500 pounds of potatoes delivered by the end of the day," said Don Coutts, the potato coordinator for District 7010 of Rotary and is a member of the North Bay Rotary Club.  

"When we phoned the organizations and told them what was going on it was great. The feedback from the Rotarians not only here but the feedback from the other Rotary Clubs has been great within the communities and it has been great to get out and do it." 

Dennis Chippa, executive director of the North Bay Gathering Place, was thrilled to receive the donation. 

"It's fantastic that a group like Rotary takes on such an amazing and innovative idea," said Chippa. 

"We love it because food is what we do." 

This initiative has been undertaken in partnership with Prince Edward Island potato farmers, the Government of Canada, Second Harvest Canada, Manitoulin Transport, and the Nipissing District Social Services Administrative Board.

The potatoes came from Prince Edward Island, where a surplus of the island’s signature crop has piled up after export to the US was cancelled this year. Routine testing in the fall of 2021, uncovered some potato wart in two crops causing the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to suspend the export of seed potatoes to the US.

Later the suspension was extended to table and processing potatoes. However, most potatoes are free from the fungus, which is not harmful to humans. 

About 10 per cent of the 2021 crop of potatoes from PEI (300 million pounds) will be destroyed. Farmers are being given government funding amounting to about 8.5 cents per pound for the potatoes that are destroyed. 

In response, the Government of Canada is funding a program to have 290 million pounds of the surplus, safe potatoes, diverted to processors, packers, dehydrators, food banks and other markets.

Upon learning what the PEI farmers were dealing with, local Rotarian Don Coutts and project coordinator, investigated how Rotary could get involved and become part of the solution – both here and across our Rotary district of over 40 clubs and 1,400 members.

“To date, Rotary’s involvement will see approximately 220,000 pounds of potatoes and counting being successfully delivered to those in need in numerous communities from Peterborough, Lindsay, Barrie, and Collingwood in the south, west to Blind River, and as far north as Kapuskasing”, stated Don Coutts.