FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The Fort St. John Salvation Army finally received its shipment of 21 pallets of potatoes, originally destined for the United States.
According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the import of potatoes was halted due to concerns over potato wart fungus, which can decrease crop yields but poses no threat to humans.
Jared Braun, executive director of the Fort St. John Salvation Army, said that because of this import issue, they couldn’t be transported to the United States as planned, but because they were still “perfectly good potatoes” they were given to food banks across Canada.
Through partnerships with Food Banks Canada, Food Banks B.C. and Second Harvest, they were informed of this opportunity, which Braun almost turned down.
“I had said, could we just take five pallets or so, and then was informed that they were only coming in container loads of that one quantity. So it was either take them all or don’t get them.”
Braun says he was hesitant at first, but some of his team said that it would be an awesome opportunity for them, so they started to reach out to some of their connections in the community..
“So I touched base with the mayor and Trevor Bolin, looking for some ideas of spaces where we could keep the potatoes if we were to get them in,” he explains.
“The long story short, we got connected with the property management company that manages the strip mall where the old BC Liquor store was, and they said that we could have that space for free use to store the potatoes for a couple of months.”
He explains that there was a period of a few weeks where they were waiting and wondering if the potatoes were on their way, until the pallets finally arrived on May 17th.
With the help of a skid steer and Sparky’s Electric Company, the potatoes are now in the building.
“We’re just in the works of now trying to figure out how to distribute 50,000 pounds of potatoes,” he says.
The local Salvation Army is in contact with the Women’s Resource Centre, the FSJ Hospital Foundation, NENA, and some of the schools, Braun explained.
“Of course, we operate our Northern Centre of Hope Emergency Shelter, where we’re providing meals every day and a lot of those places we’re going to get potatoes out to,” he says.
“We’re also hoping that in the next couple of days, we can do some kind of a community potatoes giveaway thing to just really help out the community.”
Braun also mentioned that it was pretty good timing as “everybody’s kind of feeling the crunch right now at the grocery store with prices going up.”
“We’re typically recognized as the ones helping those that are most marginalized, but we want to be an integral part of the community all around and support everybody.”
Braun wanted to say a big thank you to the community for their ongoing support of our work.
“We couldn’t do it without our community partners and people contributing to our work, volunteering their time. It’s very helpful, and so we’re always grateful for a community that stands with us to do the work we do.”