NOVEMBER 21, 1995

TILLERY - Sweet potatoes canned at the state prison cannery will be shipped today to a food bank in Elizabeth City, the first of six shipments to North Carolina food programs for the hungry.

"This is the first time we've done this for anyone outside the prison system," said Ernst Meyer, director of the cannery at Caledonia Correctional Institution. "It's made some of the inmates think--realizing they can help the needy people of the state."

Over five days, the prison cannery's 65 inmates worked to put 69 tons of raw sweet potatoes into six pound, six ounce cans. The canning process was completed yesterday and Myer says they filled more than 3,651 cases with six cans to a case.

The potatoes were gathered by the Society of St. Andrew, a Christian-based hunger relief ministry with offices in Durham. They recruit volunteers from churches and communities to glean produce left in the fields of farmers throughout North Carolina. Most of these potatoes were gathered from farms in eastern North Carolina and Virginia.

"The Society of St. Andrew has been gathering potatoes for North Carolina food banks for several years," said Greg Kirkpatrick of the Food Bank of North Carolina in Raleigh. "Instead of distributing raw potatoes this year, the food banks will get canned potatoes that will last much longer and feed more people."

The canned sweet potatoes will go to food banks in Asheville, Charlotte, Elizabeth City, Fayetteville, Raleigh and Winston-Salem. From there, the potatoes will be distributed to soup kitchens, homeless shelters, rescue missions, food pantries and Salvation Army kitchens across the state. The Raleigh food bank alone serves 450 programs in 34 counties.

"When we approached Correction Secretary Franklin Freeman about this project, he was quick to say yes," said Kirkpatrick. "We hope the work helps the inmates feel useful showing them that they can help others and make honest restitution."