A potato makes friends in any dish and in any stomach

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This article is the second in a series of posts based on staple foods, which include foods such as pasta, potatoes, rice, canned meat and fish, and peanut butter.  Previously I talked about “Who doesn’t love pasta?”, and shared what patrons had to say through a few questions I posed to them while they waited in our lobby.  Now it’s the potato’s time to shine! (Yes even though Emily wrote about potatoes through the whole month of February, we still have things to write about our friend the potato.)

“Potatoes can be expensive…so I borrow money or come here.” – Single woman in her 50s, who has raised 5 children.


Despite the fact that potatoes are one of the cheapest vegetable to buy, it doesn’t mean that a food budget always has the room to stretch to buy the smallest bag of potatoes. One of the largest groups of people accessing emergency food are those living with fixed incomes. Therefore, when it comes to the limited amount of money they have for food, it’s often a choice: do you buy more of foods like rice or pasta that won’t spoil? Or the perishable products like vegetables? What do you do when you don’t have the money to make that choice? That’s when people find themselves accessing emergency food programs to get the foods they need like potatoes and other vegetables, or they are left in a situation where they are forced to live without.

“Getting food here helps a lot when you have a low-income.” – Male, 20s

“When we have no potatoes at home it means we need to come here …my mom helps us get meat so our side dishes really hurt…so we have to go back and forth with rice and potatoes.”
– Male, 20s

The scientific name for potatoes is Solanum tuberosum.When you translate solanum in Latin it means “soothing”. To many people potatoes are a soothing, comforting food to have at home because of the numerous ways you can use them. Potatoes are also popular because it doesn’t take a lot of other ingredients to bring out the wonderful taste that a potato can create. Essentially potatoes are another one of those versatile staple foods that everyone likes to have around.

“It’s hard (to not have potatoes) because they’re easy to make[.]” – Male in his 40s

Try to imagine not having your favourite food at home and that you lack the resources to buy it. How do you substitute your favourite food?

“I’d lose a lot of weight and die. I need my potatoes at least once a day…in any shape or form – even French fries count!” – Senior male

“My potato is my potato…I love it! Everything else just won’t do” – Female senior

“Without potatoes I feel like there’s something missing in my meal” – Female, 30s

For many patrons, their favourite food to have at home is potatoes.

Since potatoes match any meat and please any appetite, from the finicky and fussy to the strong and to the small, this creates a challenge for meal planning because it’s almost impossible for any other vegetables or food items to ‘step up’ to fill the big shoes that a potato has in completing a meal.

Few people thought you could substitute potatoes easily when making a meal. A single mom of three boys believes it’s especially difficult when you don’t have any potatoes at home when you’re trying to teach your children to cook, because there is no easy way to explain why you can’t buy potatoes. But it isn’t easier for smaller families. A single man in his 40s was not alone in his thoughts to wonders how he’d create full meals to eat when potatoes aren’t around. A senior woman commented that not having potatoes at home: “Is a disaster! Potatoes are as much of a staple to me as rice would be in China.”

“So what’s it like to not have potatoes? That’s a tricky question…hunger. You get hungry…So you start eating other foods like rice…I feel lonely and depressed. I start missing potato things like fries, baked potatoes – and oh how I love them with the skin on.” – Single male, 40s

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One Response to “A potato makes friends in any dish and in any stomach”

  1. The side of potatoes you haven’t seen… and the rising cost of food « Hofemergencyfoodassistance's Blog Says:

    […] to shine a new light on potatoes. We’ve talked about the nutrition of potatoes and how valuable potatoes are to the diets of our patrons, but we haven’t talked about the cost of potatoes. The cost of potatoes has a significant impact […]

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