During this season of gratitude and reflection, members of the Kentucky Association of Food Banks would like to express our sincere appreciation to the thousands of Kentuckians who helped make substantial impact on hunger this year.
Over 600,000 individuals received the equivalent of 58 million meals. The food was distributed by God’s Pantry Food Bank and the six other regional Feeding America food banks that serve all 120 Kentucky counties, in partnership with 800 local partners such as soup kitchens and shelters.
It would not have been possible without 20,000 volunteers who provided over 80,000 hours each week at food banks. Donations from retail partners such as Walmart and Kroger provided a significant portion of the food. Financial support from generous individuals and foundations helped cover the cost. Over $28,000 was donated by Kentuckians to the Farms to Food Banks Trust Fund through their state income tax form.
We are especially grateful for the support of Gov. Matt Bevin and leaders of the General Assembly for state funding for the Farms to Food Banks program. Over 3 million pounds of Kentucky-grown produce was distributed in 2016 thanks to these funds, which helped cover the cost of donating produce rather than having it go to waste in the fields.
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The launch of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Hunger Initiative by Commissioner Ryan Quarles was a highlight of the year for anti-hunger advocates. We are grateful for the commissioner’s leadership in bringing together farmers, charitable organizations, faith groups, community leaders and government entities to help reduce hunger.
Charity alone cannot solve the problem. Unfortunately, Congress did not pass a critical Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill and therefore missed the opportunity to help the 13 million children in America when they are most vulnerable — during summer months when school meals are not available. Food banks cannot reach all of the children in need without congressional help.
We hope the next Congress will protect and strengthen important child-nutrition programs.
Closing the hunger gap for the one in six Kentuckians at risk must be a priority in 2017. These are individuals who do not have consistent access to enough food for a healthful, active lifestyle. It could be your child’s classmate at school who is being raised by a grandparent on a fixed income. It could be the person next to you in line at the store who has to choose between paying for food and paying the rent.
Too many Kentuckians are one lengthy illness away from needing help putting food on the table. Hunger is a solvable problem if we continue working together. To learn how, visit KyFoodBanks.org.
Tamara Sandberg is executive director of the The Kentucky Association of Food Banks.