In Washington, the No. 2 U.S. potato growing state after Idaho, a billion pounds of russet potatoes, normally processed into french fries and hash browns, are sitting in warehouses that would typically be emptying ahead of the July harvest, the Washington State Potato Commision said.
Instead, the organization is handing out the surplus for free in brown sacks, 100,000 pounds at a time.
“Everyone in Washington would have to eat about 500 pounds of potatoes from now until the 4th of July to clear out that pipeline,” said Brandy Tucker, the commission’s director of marketing.
Around 90% of Washington potatoes are processed for food service, nearly half for international markets. Potato producers in Europe have also faced enormous surpluses.
The commission is planning more than a dozen donation events by the end of May. But even giving away potatoes comes with the cost of washing, bagging and shipping.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is attempting to chip away at the mountain of produce unable to get to consumers. This week it said it would buy an additional $470 million in food, including $50 million in potatoes to give to food banks.
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