La Sierra students seek funds for Japan potato shipment

Image by Calvin Teo
Image by Calvin Teo

May 6, 2011
By Darla Martin Tucker

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( They’re scrambling to complete final preparations for national competition while maintaining classes, but La Sierra University’s Students In free Enterprise team decided to add one more aid project.

The team, together with other student leaders, is raising $5,000 to pay costs for sending to Japan two, 20-foot shipping containers of dehydrated potato flakes, approximately 36,000 pounds. Reconstituted, the potato flake donation comes to about 200,000 pounds which may provide 100,000 people with two pounds of potatoes each. The shipment carries a wholesale value of $40,000.

The food will aid victims of the massive earthquake and tsunami that decimated Japan’s northeastern coast on March 11. The record-setting magnitude 9 earthquake spawned a speeding wall of water that swallowed entire communities, reaching estimated heights up to 124 feet. More than 25,000 people lost their lives or are listed as missing. Many of those remaining live in shelters, face hunger, devastating loss and fear of radiation poisoning.

La Sierra’s students agreed to take on the fundraising project after School of Business dean John Thomas approached SIFE leadership about the need. Students are collecting donations at La Sierra’s Human Resources office and with a collection container at the Dining Commons cash registers.

Meanwhile, the team of 22 students is finalizing their presentation on economic empowerment projects pursued this school year. They will deliver a multimedia annual report before a judging panel of top corporate leaders in the annual SIFE USA National Exposition in Minneapolis May 10-12. In a synchronized, timed event, they will relay results from their work with undereducated, impoverished populations in Haiti and Colombia and with local school children. They will compete against dozens of colleges and universities from around the United States.

The U.S. Potato Board is donating the flakes through the nonprofit, faith-based organization, Giving Children Hope in Buena Park. Japan is the U.S. Potato Board’s number one export partner for potato flakes, a key reason for the contribution. The board purchased the potato product from U.S. growers. “These dehydrated potatoes are first grade and being ordered specifically for Japan,” said Sean Lawrence, non-profit partner manager for Giving Children Hope. He said the potato board contacted Giving Children Hope after reading of the organization’s involvement in Japan’s crisis. “[They] called to see if we had any consignees in Japan who would be able to use their product,” Lawrence said. The potatoes will ship directly from Idaho to Japan, he said.

Once the containers arrive in Japan, Second Harvest, a Giving Children Hope distribution partner, will give the potatoes to individuals, shelters and other organizations serving those affected by the earthquake and tsunami. The potato board will provide preparation instructions in Japanese for those receiving potato flake allotments.

La Sierra became involved in the potato donation project initially through Dr. Marvin Payne, chair of the chemistry department, and also board chair for Giving Children Hope. He approached Thomas to ask whether the school could help raise funds to cover shipping and logistics costs associated with sending the containers to Japan.

The La Sierra students’ endeavors fall in line with the regional fundraising effort coordinated by Dr. Jim Erickson, La Sierra’s Center of Philanthropy director. Dr. Erickson is leading the charge to raise $1 million from Riverside and the Inland Empire region for Japan and Sendai, Riverside’s sister city in Japan. He challenged La Sierra’s students during a recent assembly talk on philanthropy to give back to their communities. SIFE is answering that challenge by seeking monies to ship much-needed food to Japan. 

“I was proud of the positive way Dr. Thomas and the SIFE students responded to the challenge I gave to La Sierra students to give back to their communities in the assembly presentation I made,” Erickson said. “The credit for this effort should go the vision of Dr. John Thomas and the members of the award-winning SIFE team. The vital potato shipment that they have made possible to the people of Japan who have been so devastated by the terrible earthquake and resulting tsunami will provide much needed food at a critical time.”


PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University
Riverside, California
951.785.2460 (voice)

  • Last update on  May 06, 2011