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Families in need had a merrier holiday season thanks to the diligent efforts of Haun Potato Co., potato growers in the Red River Valley and The Salvation Army.

On Dec. 13, 42,000 pounds of fresh potatoes were distributed to dozens of charities that help feed the hungry in the Kansas City area through The Salvation Army’s Christmas Food Basket project.

“For the 30th consecutive year, 42,000 pounds of potatoes have been donated, thanks to the Haun family,” Major Greg Voeller, divisional secretary for business with The Salvation Army-Kansas & Western Missouri division, told The Produce News Dec. 18. “Over 120 volunteers gathered to sort and add the potatoes that will be distributed to over 1,300 area families to be used for their Christmas dinner. Many thanks to the Hauns and the distributors for their generosity to those in need.”

DavidDavid and (Spud) Haun of Haun Potato with Major Greg Voeller, divisional secretary for business with The Salvation Army-Kansas & Western Missouri division. (Photo courtesy of Marsha Wooten)Haun Potato Co. is located in Kansas City, MO. The following members of the Red River Valley Potato Growers Association of North Dakota and Minnesota made donations this year: O.C. Schulz in Crystal, ND; J.G. Hall of Edinburg, ND; Associated Potato Growers in Grand Forks, ND; Northern Valley Growers in Hoople, ND; and A&L Potato Co. in East Grand Forks, MN.

Owner David Haun and his father, Spud, donated the cost of transportation. Kunkel Truck Lines, located in Brandon, SD, arranged for logistics, and the potatoes were delivered by driver Richard Powell.

The important collaboration developed 30 years ago under interesting circumstances. “The concept was hatched during a visit to Red River Valley by my dad, Spud, boss of a packingshed and owner of Scott’s truck brokerage,” David Haun told The Produce News on Dec. 17. “I’m told it was over dinner and, also knowing them all well, a moderate bar bill was also included.”

The details have become the stuff of legend. “During a prior golf event that summer, former baseball star Yogi Berra attended and — being from Maine — ribbed the guys as to if they really could grow spuds up there,” Mr. Haun continued. “Shortly thereafter, a whole truckload of potatoes was dumped at his farm back in Maine. Alluding back to the dinner, which happened shortly thereafter, my dad brought up the question if the folks up there could afford to do that as a joke, just imagine if it could be done again to feed the poor. The right people at the right time in the right place.”

Some of the potatoes were included in more than 4,500 individual family food baskets prepared by the Salvation Army. The rest of the potatoes will help supply the organization’s feeding program, which prepares meals for hungry people.

“We commend the Haun Potato Co. and all the members of the Red River Valley Potato Growers Association for their longtime commitment to helping fight hunger,” said Major Charles Smith, divisional commander of The Salvation Army in Kansas City. “Many families in Kansas City will enjoy a wonderful holiday meal thanks to their generosity.”