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Sweet Donation for Hurricane Harvey Victims

By Dee Ann Littlefield, Public Affairs Specialist

When disaster strikes, America responds in amazing ways. As soon as the community of Wahpeton, North Dakota heard about the plight of Hurricane Harvey victims in the Gulf Coast area, they knew what they wanted to do: send them some fresh corn.

A couple years ago Wahpeton resident Scott Muehler got a landowner to donate five acres in the middle of a residential area to be planted in sweet corn field, with the intention of growing enough corn for a fundraiser corn feed to benefit the fire department. The corn was planted by farmers Jim Maranowski and Mark Knutson, both donating their time and input costs.

Despite drought conditions during the growing season this particular field received good rains. When it came time to harvest the corn, six different groups came and picked corn and fed 600 people through the Community Corn Feed. And there was still corn in the field. Then Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and the community knew where their extra corn needed to go: south Texas.

“Our community has benefited greatly from this,” Muehler said. “If the hurricane victims can benefit from this, that’s just an unbelievable blessing.”

Community leaders contacted Nancy Carriveau, food resource manager for the Great Plains Food Bank in North Dakota. She contacted staff at the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in North Dakota and then Texas for help finding an outlet with coolers to keep the corn fresh. Through the agency’s Feds Feed Families program, they had contacts with H-E-B grocery stores and food banks in south Texas. H-E-B staff helped NRCS direct Carriveau to the San Antonio Food bank which had walk in refrigerators that could accommodate the 44 pallets of fresh corn.

“This was such a generous donation from this community,” says Andrea Monreal-Christiansen, H-E-B’s representative for Texas Food Banks. “Fresh produce is a great commodity right now.”

Muehler lined up the semi-truck to carry the corn down to San Antonio and donations came in from to pay for the fuel to transport the corn. On Thursday, Aug. 31, many community organizations showed up to pick the corn, NRCS staff and Carriveau worked with Food Bank organizers to help prepare the facility for the corn’s delivery. On Saturday, September 2, 20,000 pounds of fresh sweet corn to the San Antonio Food Bank was distributed to hurricane victims over the next week.

“It was a pretty moving experience for the two that drove the corn down there,” says Carriveau. “They had a really great experience meeting the president of the San Antonio Food Bank and seeing how large the operation is down there! Thanks to NRCS for the assistance in helping us find a delivery location for the corn.”

Sweet Donation for Hurricane Harvey Victims, Dee Ann Littlefield, USDA-NRCS PAS (2017, September)