Rhinelander ARS potatoes ready for donation to nearby food pantries. Photo by Becky Eddy/UW–Madison CALS

Millions of Americans have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Believing that nobody should go hungry in a time of need, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences staff at Rhinelander Agricultural Research Station (RARS) felt a desire to help. Also known as the UW Lelah Starks Potato Breeding Farm, the station has been the home for the university’s potato breeding research for more than 70 years.

Once Wisconsin’s “stay at home” order took effect in March, it soon became apparent that food pantries would see a surge of demand from people needing food assistance, many of them first-time recipients of that help.

“There are numerous potato breeding lines that UW potato breeder Jeffrey Endelman chooses not to advance in our program,” RARS superintendent Becky Eddy explained.

Knowing those potatoes could go to good use, Eddy contacted local food pantries. To date, RARS has provided about 10 tons of potatoes to several nearby food pantries from April to June.

“The Rhinelander and UW Potato Breeding program staff couldn’t be happier that these potatoes were able to feed so many area families,” Eddy said.

Food banks can’t do it alone and you can help. The CALS Wellness Committee encourages students and staff to reach out to their local food pantry if they have items in excess or are interested in contributing in some other way.