The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

September 26, 2013

Program sends extra Minn. corn to hungry Americans

SAVAGE (AP) — More than a million pounds of Minnesota sweet corn is being donated to feed hungry Americans this year thanks to a program that sends food that would be wasted to places where it's needed.

The Hunger-Free Minnesota program is in its second year and is made possible through the donations and expertise of some of the biggest names in agriculture, including Cargill, General Mills, Seneca, Birds Eye, and Supervalu, Minnesota Public Radio reported. Some of the corn gets distributed in Minnesota, but some is shipped as far away as New York City.

One place where the logistical challenges are sorted out is a Cargill grain facility in Savage. On a recent day a truck pulled up with a 25-ton load of sweet corn fresh from a field near Owatonna. Maria Crownhart, who works in southern Minnesota for Birds Eye, said it was about four acres worth of corn.

Birds Eye found itself with more corn than it could process. Rather than plowing it back into the ground or chopping it up into silage to feed livestock, the corn was "rescued."

"They were kind enough to pick it for us, put it in a truck and bring it here," said Tony Mans, director of food sourcing at Second Harvest Heartland food bank, as he and others loaded the excess corn into gigantic bags.

Mans estimated that about 50 million pounds of sweet corn go unharvested in Minnesota each year, but he said there's high demand for nutritious food like it.

"There's a lot of talk in the news about people in poverty having high obesity rates. So food shelves are asking us more and more for fresh produce," he said.

Another challenge is that corn harvested on hot days spoils fast. So they cool the corn using a cold-water shower system.

The Boston Consulting Group estimates that in Minnesota alone, 210 million pounds of sweet corn, potatoes, and peas go unharvested every year.

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