Students in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition's First Year Learning Community volunteered to glean potatoes on a farm south of Nevada. The potatoes were then donated to local food pantries. Contributed photo.

Gleaning potatoes to prevent food waste

First Year Learning Community students gathered at a farm south of Nevada earlier this month to harvest more than 1,000 pounds of potatoes to donate to local food pantries.

When Erin Bergquist, clinical associate professor for Iowa State’s Dietetic Internship program, became aware of her neighbor’s desire to find a place to take the remainder of his potato crop, she wanted to find a way to get the potatoes to a local food pantry.

“Once I visited the field, I knew there was an opportunity to glean a significant amount of potatoes for donation,” Bergquist said.

She contacted Anne Oldham, academic adviser and coordinator of the First Year Learning Community, to see if any student groups would have an interest in gleaning and donating the potatoes.

SUV Pantry_websiteOldham suggested having the First Year Learning Community gather the potatoes, and donate the vegetables to The S.H.O.P. (Students Helping Our Peers) SUV Apartments food pantry.

Bergquist’s relationship with Eat Greater Des Moines led to a donation of brown paper bags from Hy-Vee in which to gather the potatoes and the suggestion of also donating to the pantry at Youth and Shelter Services.

This is not the first time First Year Learning Community members have taken part in harvesting crops to prevent food waste. Oldham has taken students, in partnership with the Horticulture Learning Community, to the Iowa State Horticulture Research Station to glean apples.

Bergquist said this was a great opportunity for the students to learn about ways to decrease food waste and assist those facing food insecurity.

“This activity connected students to issues surrounding food insecurity, agriculture, food waste and local partnerships in a way that helped them see how they can play a role in waste reduction and community building as students and future professionals,” Bergquist said.