Nothing Says “North Carolina” Like a Sweet Potato
Nothing says “North Carolina” like a sweet potato.
And this week, Second Harvest Food Bank is full of them—36,000 pounds of them to be exact.
Thanks to the Farm to Food Bank initiative of the North Carolina Association of Feeding America Food Banks and to the NC General Assembly for funding, we are able to offer these nutritious root veggies to our partner network.
The NC Department of Agriculture transported these seemingly endless boxes of sweet potatoes to Second Harvest earlier this week, straight from North Carolina farms. More than 1.8 million North Carolinians lack sufficient nutritious fresh food, while many farmers and packers often have surplus food that can help offset this problem. The Farm to Food Bank initiative partners food banks, like Second Harvest, with growers across the state to rescue and deliver perfectly healthy—often incredibly healthy– but unmarketable produce to food insecure families.
The Farm to Food Bank initiative means that we can make additional fruits and vegetables available to our partner network and the families and communities we serve together. We know that produce is expensive. By providing more fresh foods throughout network, we are helping ensure that families with limited resources, many of whom have health issues, have access to nutrition-rich fruits and vegetables.
“Sweet potatoes are a great source of beta carotene and fiber. They’re delicious cooked in a number of ways with any meal, and another huge perk is their forgiving storage life,” says Jane Anderson, Nutrition Services Supervisor at Second Harvest Food Bank.
The versatile sweet potato is ideal fare for individuals with low-food security who may be at risk of diet-related illness. While many of us might be familiar with sweet potato pie, or the marshmallow smothered mashed sweet potato dish of our grandmother’s Thanksgiving spread, sweet potatoes are finding their way back onto tables in more health-conscious ways.
Sweet potatoes blend with herbs, spices and flavorings producing delicious dishes of all types. From processed baby foods to the main dishes, casseroles, salads, breads and desserts, sweet potatoes add valuable, appetizing nutrients and color to any meal. Cooked sweet potatoes can be thinly sliced and added to sandwiches, grilled sweet potatoes can be drizzled with lime juice, mashed sweet potatoes can be enhanced with orange juice, and baked sweet potatoes can be brushed with olive oil and turned into healthy chips.
The sweet potato is a nutritious and economical food. Sweet potatoes can be stored easily by our partner programs across Northwest North Carolina, even if they lack refrigeration. They can be stored three to five weeks in a cool, dark space.
The sweet potato is fat free, low sodium, and cholesterol free, but high in vitamins A and C, a good source of dietary fiber and of potassium. One baked sweet potato (3 1/2 ounce serving) provides over 8,800 IU of vitamin A or about twice the recommended daily allowance, yet it contains only 141 calories making it valuable for the weight watcher.
Second Harvest’s Nutrition Services staff will be busy creating low-cost recipes and nutritional information for our partner’s to distribute and these sweet potatoes will soon go on the final leg of their journey: to the tables of the Northwest North Carolina families that need them the most.