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Great Potato Challenge

Introduction

Between his course work at Boston College and a semester studying in Ireland, my buddy Andrew became quite familiar with Irish history. His friends were incredulous when he claimed that, before the Great Potatoe Famine of 1850, the average laborer consumed 15 pounds of potatoes every day. How could anyone possibly stomach that many potatoes? My mother must be credited with the ensuing event's inception: "Prove it--I'll cook them if you eat them."

A Charitable Spin

The irony of such an event was not lost on the group, Andrew least of all. To observe a devastating famine with a gastronomic challenge seemed wrong, somehow. Luckily, we quickly developed a scheme to re-brand our event from "dicking around" (as we say in Boston) to "a good cause". We would collect donations for charity (the Weymouth Food Pantry.

Pledges would be collected on a per-pound basis: pledges could select a dollar amount to contribute for each pound of potatoe Andrew consumed in the allotted 24 hours. This model would both make Andrew's progress more interesting and place more pressure on him to finish.

Filming

For reasons relating to historical accuracy and appetite encouragement, Andrew elected to spend the day toiling. The combination of labor and consumption seemed like an entertaining spectacle, so I volunteered to follow him with a video camera.

Together, we produced a documentary-style short to commemorate the event. The film includes interviews with friends, family, and licensed physicians. It takes place all over our hometown of Weymouth, from a local grocery store to the town's food pantry.

Results

Andrew made a heroic effort, but despite his best efforts and the support of his friends, he was unable to meet his goal. His final total of just over 12 pounds is nothing to be scoffed at. Neither is the amount of money he raised--in excess of $1,700. Not bad for a day spent dicking around!

You can view a trailer of the documentary here:

If you would like to donate to the Weymouth Food Pantry, you can do so online at their website or mail a check to:

  • Weymouth Food Pantry
  • 1199 Commercial Street
  • East Weymouth, MA 02189

@ a Glance...

  • Duration: 1 month
  • Team mates: 3 (longtime friends)
  • Responsibilities: interviewing, filming, editing