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Sweet potato dump a hit again in Bethel

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People load up their bags and baskets with sweet potatoes during the annual giveaway in Bethel, Friday morning.

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By Bobby Burns and Juliette Cooke
The Daily Reflector

Friday, November 16, 2018

BETHEL — Yam lovers gathered around a mountain of sweet potatoes on Friday to grab up all they could carry just in time for Thanksgiving.

The seemingly endless pile of the orange roots was delivered in the morning to Mount Zion Holiness Church on Barnhill Street. The annual outreach is intended to combat hunger and spread holiday cheer. 

Anyone regardless of income is allowed to carry off as many sweet potatoes — some call them yams — as they want, according to the Rev. Rodney Coles, founder of Churches Outreach Network. But many of the people who come are of limited means.

“We bring it to Bethel because many here don’t have transportation,” Coles said. Folks in town can walk to the mound, and they do by the score. Others drive in from surrounding communities. 

Farmers donate the sweet potatoes to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern Carolina — Coles said there were 25,000 pounds of them — and Churches Outreach, Mount Zion and the town partnered on the distribution. It is the third year for the distribution.

“The partnership with the Food Bank, the partnership with Churches Outreach and the town of Bethel, we’ve been able to do it three times and drop a load, and as you can see the folks is getting some potatoes,” Coles said. “It doesn’t look like its going down but they’re sure getting them.”

Coles said over the weekend the pile will diminish until it the last sweet potatoes are gone. 

“This will be going on all day all day tomorrow and you will finally see, like a person on super fast diet, it just going down.” he said.

Sweet potatoes are a favorite around Thanksgiving but folks eat them year ‘round. They are a superfood, Coles said, very nutritious and good for folks with diabetes. Low-income people can get a lot bang for their buck by eating sweet potatoes, especially when they are free. 

“When I drove up and saw all the people and the cars, I really got tears in my eyes because it’s a blessing” Bethel Mayor Gloristine Brown said. “And I’ve heard others as I walked up just saying, thank you, thank you.”

Brown said the distribution is a great help to people because it’s one less thing they have to think about or buy for their Thanksgiving meals.

“And we don’t know, it may be the only thing some people have to eat,” she said. “We don’t know, but its a blessing and I’m excited about it. It just makes me feel good to know that Bethel can be a part of something like this.”

Susie Houston was among the many folks on Friday morning crawling around on the pile and hefting the roots into bags, crates and boxes.

The nurse from Bethel said she also is a chef and offered a delicious list of ideas she was thinking of make while collecting her booty: a creamed sweet potato soup; sweet potato fries with a nice lime and garlic dip; sweet potato curry; sweet potato scallops; a sweet potato souffle, which is a swell dessert for people with diabetes; and maybe sweet potato biscuit-muffins like her sister makes.

“I think this is the coolest thing, because you see so much food waste and things get dumped,” Houston said. “But they brought this here and people get to take advantage of something that wholesome and nutritious and good for you and you get a little exercise while you’re collecting your sweet potatoes.”

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