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Wayne E. Bailey Produce donates sweet potatoes through national TV show

by Christina DiMartino | May 11, 2009
ABC's "Good Morning America" show is currently conducting what it calls the "GMA $15 Dinner Dare" series. The segment highlights celebrity chefs, such as Mario Batali, who prepare meals with ingredients that cost under $15.

The series also highlights food banks across the country, and as part of the segment, GMA has joined forces with Feeding America (formerly named America's Second Harvest) to supply food to 206 food banks in the United States, Guam and Puerto Rico. As of May 4, GMA had tallied up donations of 417,000 pounds of food from retailers, producers and processors from across the country.

George Wooten, president of Wayne E. Bailey Produce Co., a major sweet potato producer-shipper in Chadburn, NC, is known for his involvement in community and not-for-profit organizations. He could not let this opportunity to help slide by.

"In late April, my wife, Alice, was watching 'Good Morning America's Dinner Dare' series, and she immediately mentioned it to me," said Mr. Wooten. As of that morning, the show had accumulated 152,000 pounds of food. I decided that I wanted to make a donation of sweet potatoes that was double the poundage of food that any other single company had donated."

On Friday, April 24, Mr. Wooten had his assistant e-mail the network to say he would double the biggest weight donation (four loads) of sweet potatoes if GMA would allow him to appear on the program to talk about the high nutritional value of sweet potatoes.

"A representative from GMA contacted me the following Monday," said Mr. Wooten. "She was going to see if she could get me on the show either live or through live remote. But the show's schedule did not allow for such a spot. However, she did say the anchor would mention us and they would flash a photo of me with sweet potatoes on the show."

The next day, Tuesday, April 28, Mr. Wooten had several photos taken of himself with generic sweet potato cases in various poses at the Wayne E. Bailey facility, and they were promptly sent to the network. He was told that his donation would be announced the following Thursday, April 30.

"Alice and I were excited as we watched the show," said Mr. Wooten. During the 'Dinner Dare' segment, the anchor did mention me, our company and they even had a display of sweet potatoes. But they didn't show the photo, which was a little disappointing."

Following the announcement, Mr. Wooten prepared for work, admitting that he pouted a little about what he felt was a slight shun. But while showering, and as the show was wrapping up, GMA anchor Robin Roberts announced that she wanted to thank George Wooten again for the donation of sweet potatoes. They flashed his photo and said that the sweet potatoes would be shipped to four states in the country. She even gave Mr. Wooten a new nickname: "Sweet George."

"Afterward, Alice asked me what the real purpose of my efforts were," said Mr. Wooten. "I told her that I am able to help and so I should, and I wanted to promote the high nutritional value of sweet potatoes. It was worth the effort and the donation to help such a worthy cause - even if they had not shown the photo."

But they did, and the ultimate recipients of the company's gift will certainly be appreciative.