DENVER (September 13, 2010)—The first of four shipments of dehydrated potato (dehy) products, donated to Haiti in July, provided 887,000 servings of potato granules to people affected by the country’s catastrophic earthquake. The venture is a joint project of the United States Potato Board (USPB) and Food for the Poor, a private voluntary organization helping with disaster relief efforts in Haiti.
“This is something the USPB and US potato growers were really interested in doing. After the earthquake, we saw an outpouring of interest in helping Haitians however possible,” commented TK Kuwahara, USPB International Marketing Manager.
“When we thought about how we could help, we focused on how dehydrated potatoes are ideal for emergency and relief efforts. Dehydrated potatoes are so easy to use and require no fuel, only potable water,” Kuwahara continued. “This makes them perfect for situations where people don’t have access to fuel and cooking facilities.”
The project took shape after the USPB’s Kuwahara arranged for 1,056 cases of dehydrated potato granules to be shipped to Haiti in July. Utilizing a combination of USDA funding and industry donations, the USPB organized a total of four shipments.
The second shipment of granules—providing 740,000 servings—arrived August 20th. Additional shipments of flakes and slices were also sent in late August/early September.
The donations make a good tie-in to shipments of seed potatoes previously sent to Haiti, and may help pave the way for agricultural development of potato production.
While rice is one of the most-consumed foods in Haiti, the potatoes proved popular, particularly among children. The dehy product was seen as fast and easy to prepare, with most recipients using the product in porridge, a common dish in Haiti. Feedback from institutions and households receiving the dehy was highly positive.
Additionally, this project may serve as an initial step toward gaining approval for usage of US dehydrated potato granules in US government food assistance programs. Currently, only US dehydrated potato flakes can be used in US government-funded assistance programs because the packaging for granules is not yet approved.
The process of obtaining such approval involves multiple steps, one of which is proving that the product is available in adequate packaging for food assistance distribution. Therefore, the USPB is utilizing the project to test different packaging. With the four shipments, the USPB and its partner, Food for the Poor, are conducting surveys to determine whether the packaging is appropriate. So far, initial evaluations indicate the dehy arrived in good condition with no spillage of contents or water damage, and it was shipped in packaging that was easy for handlers to move.
Approval for dehydrated potato granules in government-funded programs would open up additional opportunities for the US potato industry to become more involved in food assistance projects. Granules are closer to the bulk density of other food items used for food assistance programming, which would increase an organization’s interest in using dehydrated potatoes.