Ag Commissioner submits comments to U.S. Senate about Kentucky’s healthy food pathways
Comments part of 'Food as Medicine' hearing
FRANKFORT (Dec. 14, 2022) - Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Dr. Ryan Quarles submitted written comments this week to a United States Senate hearing outlining the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s commitment to nutritious backed programing that has benefited Kentucky residents.
The comments were submitted to U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry’s subcommittee on Food and Nutrition, Specialty Crops, Organics and Research. Tuesday’s hearing, “Food as Medicine: Current Efforts and Potential Opportunities,” discussed the “food as medicine” approach to building healthy diets and reducing diet-related illnesses in the U.S.
“It was an honor for me, as the Commissioner of Agriculture, to boast loud and proud about what Kentucky has been able to accomplish with its food programs,” Commissioner Quarles said. “Our focus has been on helping those among us who are food insecure, while at the same time finding unique ways to bring nutritious, healthy meals to the tables and classrooms of our citizens. I’m extremely proud of the work my administration has done through my time as agriculture commissioner.”
The focus of the commissioner’s comments centered on the various successful programs the state has administered in an effort to bring healthy foods into every day meals. His comments also focused on Kentucky’s summer food program and the importance of state-grown produce.
“One in eight Kentuckians, which includes one in six Kentucky children, face hunger each day. Breaking the cycle of food insecurity is something I believed my administration had to take on,” the Commissioner wrote. “So, seven years ago, at the beginning of my administration, I created the Kentucky Hunger Initiative. This first-of-its-kind program built and expanded collaborative partnerships between the public and private sectors to minimize hunger and food insecurity in the state.”
Since its inception, the Kentucky Hunger Initiative has raised more than $36 million for hunger relief programs, while increasing public awareness of hunger in the state.
In addition to the Kentucky Hunger Initiative, the Commissioner’s comments to the U.S. Senate subcommittee looked at the other state agencies serving a critical role in access to nutritious foods. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture works with these agencies to bring them together with agriculture producers to develop nutrition and Food as Medicine programs.
These programs include:
- -- The Kentucky Double Dollars program. Working in connection with the Community Farm Alliance, the program provides individuals who participate in SNAP, WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program or the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program additional funds to buy local products at farmers’ markets.
- -- Kentucky’s Farm to School program. The program has generated more than $8 million in funding to local producers and allows Kentucky students to receive fresh locally grown products for their summer feeding programs and the National School Lunch Program.
- -- The Summer Feeding Funds. The department used $1.3 million for USDA Foods for school districts across the state. This was imperative during the COVID-19 pandemic when schools were closed across the state. School food service personnel in Kentucky worked long, hard hours to feed students even though schools were closed. Food was still available for students at school drive-throughs, made possible by nationwide waivers. Our schools, summer feeding programs and more benefited from the nationwide waivers established in 2020.
The Commissioner also described future plans including using the more than $9.4 million in grant monies funded through the TEFAP Reach and Resiliency, Local Food Purchase Assistance, and Local Food for Schools programs to expand and cultivate programs that will bring more healthy food to more Kentuckians, with possibly more to come in 2023.
To read the commissioner’s submitted letter in full, click here.