Several Mississippi State University student groups recently waged war on hunger by bagging sweet potatoes for food pantries in the Golden Triangle (Starkville-Columbus-West Point) area.

The Society of St. Andrew, a grassroots, nonprofit organization that recruits volunteers to gather leftover crops, located farmers willing to donate produce. The 15,000 pounds of Beauregard sweet potatoes that arrived at the Palmeiro Center on Nov. 12 for the event known as the sweet potato drop came from Dawson Farms of Delhi, La.

Chad Fulcher of Fulcher Farms in Louisville, Miss., transported the potatoes to the MSU campus free of charge.

The MSU Dietetics Club and Sigma Alpha Lambda honor society cosponsored the 2010 event.

“No group had stepped up to host this year’s event, and we decided it would be a great service project,” said dietetics club member Stephanie Allen, a senior nutrition major from Grenada. “Giving students an opportunity to make a difference for people who don’t have healthy food to eat is a way to get them out to help.”

The sweet potato drop has been held on campus each fall since the first event three years ago.

Participants help pack donated sweet potatoes into 10-pound bags. The potatoes are then delivered to food pantries and other relief agencies.

Many food pantries in the Golden Triangle made local distribution easier by picking up potatoes as they were bagged. One early bird at the drop was Pearlie Westbrooks of West Point, Miss., who hauled more than a ton of sweet potatoes to the food pantry at her church.

“We distribute some of the potatoes to the indigent and senior citizens who cannot afford healthy food, and we also cook a sweet potato treat for the Thanksgiving meal served to inmates at the Clay County jail,” Westbrooks said. “Our mission is to fill in the gaps for those who have little.”

Chiquita Briley, professor in the MSU Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion Department, said the students have a genuine interest in helping solve hunger issues.

“Food insecurity, or the lack of access to healthy, nutritious food, always has been a concern for our nutrition majors because they study it,” Briley said. “However, more people are becoming aware of hunger issues, and they realize that food insecurity is a real problem here as well as overseas.”

Students felt good about having the opportunity to give back to their community.

“I’m proud of us,” said Sigma Alpha Lambda member Justin Hobbs, a Brookhaven senior majoring in kinesiology. “Students made a point to get up early this morning and get out here to help, which shows that they do care about sharing and giving back.”