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Governor Supports Helping KY Farmers Get Produce to Food Banks

Nearly 700,000 Kentuckians, including almost 200,000 children, are uncertain where their next meal will come from. (Adobe Stock)
Nearly 700,000 Kentuckians, including almost 200,000 children, are uncertain where their next meal will come from. (Adobe Stock)
January 15, 2020

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Gov. Andy Beshear and groups that work to end hunger rally today in Frankfort, highlighting the fact that one in seven Kentuckians is considered "food insecure."

Scottie Lee is a third-generation Western Kentucky farmer who participates in the "Farms to Food Banks" program, run by the group Feeding Kentucky. He's paid to haul his leftover fruits and vegetables to regional food banks.

Since the program began in 2011, more than 21 million pounds of local produce has been distributed to Commonwealth residents. Lee says its a win-win solution for reducing hunger.

"You know, the average person might not realize that this produce that we're salvaging and putting in this Farms to Food Banks program, this is probably some of the most nutrient-dense food that those people that are in need are going to be able to get hold of," says Lee.

Farms to Food Banks is funded by a state budget appropriation of a $500,000 annually, private donors - such as Farm Credit Mid-America and the Novak Family Foundation - and by Kentuckians who choose to donate a portion of their state tax refund to the program.

Lee is one of 336 farmers who participated last year. He says the extra cash he makes from packaging and delivering leftover or slightly blemished produce is funneled back into the farm's operation.

"And it adds to our farm's efficiency, by being able to have a market for that extra that we might have," says Lee. "That all goes into the pot that helps us pay expenses and labor."

Sarah Vaughn, a program coordinator Feeding Kentucky, says state food banks are struggling to keep pace with the demand. But she points out the issue isn't always on the public radar.

"We say a lot of times that food insecurity is a hidden problem, because a lot of the people that are hungry, they're not homeless. And so, you don't see 'em," says Vaughn. "They're not going to be sitting out on the street corner or anything like that, because they have housing, but they just have to make tough decisions."

According to a 2019 "Map the Meal Gap" report, 187,000 children in the Commonwealth struggle with hunger.

Disclosure: Feeding Kentucky contributes to our fund for reporting on Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY