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Conference UM Men feed neighbors through ‘potato drop’

Posted: November 29 2023 at 08:55 AM
Author: Steve Nailor (Grace: Rockford) & Robert Bruozas (New Lenox)


United Methodist Men groups unload over 4,000 pounds of potatoes to the Grace UMC (Rockford) parking lot in preparation for the Potato Drop. (Photo by Steve Nailor)

United Methodist Men from Grace United Methodist Church (Rockford), the UMC of New Lenox, and the Prairie North District partnered with Society of St. Andrew this fall to give away fresh produce and other basics to their neighbors. 

The give-away that took place at Grace UMC on Oct. 28 (with a satellite distribution site at Court Street UMC) distributed 42,000 pounds of potatoes (1.4 million servings of food) for people in seven counties. It caught the attention of Rockford WREX-TV’s newscast in October. Over the years, the Prairie North District has provided over 294,000 pounds of food to area residents through local community food pantries. 

The New Lenox UMM hosted a drive-through event on Oct. 14 and distributed 45,000 pounds of potatoes, many crates of water, Starbucks coffee, graham crackers, and boxed cereal through the generosity of Hands of Hope of Illinois. Some 37 church pantries and government agencies also participated. 

Church members and youth from Lincoln-Way West and Lincoln-Way Central High Schools made that very wet morning a success. They served people from as far north as Barrington and as far south as Wilmington.  

A United Methodist–related ministry, SOSA directs salvaged potatoes (and other fresh produce) to churches and other organizations that provide food to those who need it. It is the America’s first and largest gleaning network. 

The salvaged produce was rejected by commercial markets or potato chip factories due to slight imperfections in size, shape, sugar content, or surface blemishes. They are still safe to eat. Usually, these rejected loads end up at local landfills. Of all the food raised in the U.S., 133 billion pounds (40 percent) goes to waste each year while each year 40 million people in the U.S. struggle with access to food. 

In 1974, the Northern Illinois Conference UMM and the then–Rockford District worked with SOSA as they began their ministry. The Rockford UMM has raised $70,846 (out of the conference total of $130,000) for SOSA over the last eight years. 

To raise awareness for the organization, SOSA started offering “potato pins.”  These were designed in Northern Illinois and are still in use today. 

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