Kentucky Ag News
Farms to Food Banks Program receives state funds, seeks recipients
Kentucky Association of Food Banks
BEREA, Ky. - Thanks in part to funding from the state, Kentucky farmers will have an opportunity to recover losses for their unmarketable produce this growing season while helping their neighbors in need.
Included in the 2016-2017 biennial budget signed into law in April by Governor Matt Bevin is $600,000 per year for the Farms to Food Banks program.
“We are so pleased by the bi-partisan, bi-cameral support for the Farms to Food Banks program in the Kentucky General Assembly again this budget session,” said Tamara Sandberg, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Food Banks. “We are grateful that Governor Bevin included it in his budget proposal and thankful for the leadership of Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles to see the program funded. This investment in farm families and struggling Kentuckians demonstrates the commitment of our leaders in Frankfort to ensure a healthy future for our Commonwealth.”
Through the Farm to Food Banks program, the Kentucky Association of Food Banks reimburses farmers for the cost of picking, packaging, and transporting their Number 2-grade produce to the nearest major food bank.
“Number 2-grade produce is typically rejected by retailers because of cosmetic imperfections,” said Sarah Vaughn, KAFB program assistant. “It is nutritious and delicious food that might otherwise go to waste because of a lack of market for it.”
The produce is distributed to low-income Kentuckians across the state through the food bank network. The association connects farmers with either a regional food bank distribution center or a local food pantry, depending on the amount of produce available.
The need for food assistance remains high in Kentucky: 1 in 6 Kentuckians is food insecure, which means they lack consistent access to enough nutritious food for an active, healthy life, according to data from Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization.
“When we have excess vegetables, it’s tough to see them turn into compost,” said participating farmer Mary Courtney of Shelby County, who was recently named the winner of Monsanto’s 2016 America’s Farmers Mom of the Year Contest. “Farms to Food Banks provides an outlet for the ‘ugly’ vegetables — the same ones that I take home to feed our four children — that have no place in the marketplace. This program not only helps fill a void from a moral standpoint of watching good food rot on the vine, but it decreases income loss when a factor out of your hands impacts your ability to sell.”
In 2015, the Farms to Food Banks program benefited struggling families in all 120 Kentucky counties. Seven regional food banks and 533 of their member agencies, such as local soup kitchens and food pantries, distributed enough produce to fill half a plate full of fruits and vegetables for over 4 million meals. The produce came from 302 Kentucky farmers in 58 counties. Participating farmers received an average payment of $1,570 to cover the cost of picking, packing and transporting produce to a food bank. Ten Kentucky farmers received over $10,000 in 2015.
Kentucky taxpayers also supported the Farms to Food Banks program through donations made via their income tax return; in 2015 the amount donated was $30,255. Other funders of the program include Farm Credit Mid-America, Lift a Life Foundation, and the Yum! Brands Foundation.
Participation is open to any Kentucky farmer. For more information visit kafb.org/farmstofoodbanks or call (859) 986-7422.