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New campaign rescues sweet corn surplus for needy families

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Thousands of pounds of sweet corn that would otherwise have gone to waste landed on the plates of low-income families this fall.

A group of hunger relief organizations, local corporations, and a large food processor teamed up to harvest and distribute the food as a pilot program led by Hunger-Free Minnesota.

The corn from Seneca Foods would have otherwise been plowed under, said Ellie Lucas, chief campaign officer for Hunger-Free Minnesota.

"What happens is, because of the growing season, the corn gets bunched up. So they had more corn than they could put in their processing sink," Lucas said.

After months of logistical planning, the partners rescued more than 600,000 pounds of sweet corn over 12 days. The program is part of an attempt to capture what is known as agricultural surplus for food shelves. Lucas says she hopes it can be replicated nationally.

The pilot partners included Cargill, General Mills, Supervalu, Seneca Foods Corporation, and several hunger relief groups led by Second Harvest Heartland.

"We did distributions to the entire state of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, all of Wisconsin, and then we went to six other states," Lucas said.