By Claudia Sandell June 12, 2020
June marked the beginning of sweet potato deliveries from Sandy Ridge Farm in Senatobia, Mississippi to communities all over the state. The Society of St. Andrew, a gleaning network of volunteers in eight states, helped deliver the first two truckloads from Sandy Ridge Farm to about 9,600 households. These deliveries will continue weekly until the potatoes run out.
St. Andrew supplies smaller food banks and churches in 62 counties from northern Mississippi to the Gulf coast, and parts of Arkansas. St. Andrew partners with local farms like Sandy Ridge to acquire grade two sweet potatoes—potatoes with flat sides, twists and bumps that are perfectly edible, but not uniform enough to sell at grocery stores.
Feeding people, Tim Bradford of St. Andrew explained, takes resources that sometimes he doesn’t have.
“We don’t have much more than 5000 dollars per year in our budget for transportation and pack-outs,”
5000 dollars only covers the cost of about four deliveries. When the 5000 dollars runs out, St. Andrew relies on grants and donations to feed Mississippi communities. The donations come in fits and starts, determining St. Andrew’s rate of distribution.
Let’s put that number into perspective: the population of Mississippi is about three million, or about 1.1 million households. The Brookings Institute’s COVID Impact Survey and the Survey of Mothers with Young Children found that by the end of April, about one in five households would be food insecure, meaning they’d lack “consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life” (by the USDA’s definition of “food insecure”). For households with children under the age of twelve, that number rose to two in five. And in one in five of those same households, children and adults were skipping or eating small meals. By those numbers, about 230,000 households in Mississippi are currently experiencing food insecurity—and that’s a conservative estimate.
5000 dollars only allows St. Andrew to feed about 20,000 people, or a tenth of Mississippi’s food insecure households, once per year. “We have to pass on a lot of food because we can’t afford to get it,” Tim said. When St. Andrew cannot afford to buy and redistribute the food, the food likely goes to waste. Meanwhile, households across the state struggle to access healthy food options on a regular basis.
“All the communities that we took the food to are rural counties suffering from food insecurity, or that didn’t have access to fresh produce, or that didn’t have a grocery store,” Tim said. Families in rural areas with no food banks rely on churches to access food. Since he received the funding to transport the sweet potatoes from Sandy Ridge Farm last week, Tim has experienced a surge in demand from churches in rural counties all over the state. The churches rely solely on St. Andrew for food deliveries.
Without donations, St. Andrew would have to pass up a lot of food, and rural areas would go without fresh produce throughout the year. Tim reports that last year St. Andrew was able to deliver 23 truckloads of food, feeding about 110,400 households.
The Farmlink Project is thankful to Sandy Ridge Farm and to Tim and the team of volunteers and truck drivers who are helping make food more accessible to communities across Mississippi.