Nearly 1 in 6 Kentuckians – including 1 in 5 Kentucky children – don’t know where their next meal will come from at some point in the year. That’s why I launched the Kentucky Hunger Initiative nearly three years ago: to combat the unfortunate reality that so many of our friends and neighbors are food insecure.
With tax season upon us, you can “check the box” to join the fight to reduce hunger in Kentucky. Every Kentucky income tax return includes an option to donate part of your refund to the Farms to Food Banks Trust Fund. This year, the box is on line 39 of your Form 740.
All you have to do is check the box. Your gift to the trust fund helps your fellow Kentuckians get the nutrition they need and supports Kentucky farmers at the same time. The Farms to Food Banks Trust Fund awards grants to eligible nonprofit organizations that provide food to low-income Kentuckians. Grants must be used to purchase surplus or unmarketable foods from Kentucky farmers.
“Unmarketable” commodities may be of a shape or size, or have cosmetic imperfections, that make them unfit for sale at retail but are perfectly good to eat. This program supplies nutritious foods for Kentucky’s hungry while providing producers a revenue stream for products that otherwise would go to waste.
The Farms to Food Banks Trust Fund is administered by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and governed by an advisory committee appointed by yours truly, the commissioner of agriculture. The Farms to Food Banks Program operated by Feeding Kentucky (formerly the Kentucky Association of Food Banks) is a major beneficiary of the trust fund.
Since the program moved to Feeding Kentucky in 2011, it has distributed more than 11 million pounds of fresh produce from more than 800 Kentucky farmers in 85 counties to hungry Kentuckians in all 120 counties. Last year, Feeding Kentucky utilized nearly $19,000 from Kentucky taxpayer donations to purchase more than 105,000 pounds of produce – enough for more than 175,000 meals.
Many Kentuckians who are at risk of food insecurity juggle multiple jobs while taking care of their kids and trying to make a better life for their families. Many of them face the dilemma of choosing whether to buy nutritious foods, pay the bills, or pay for medication. Checking the box is a simple and easy way to pitch in to help them make ends meet. So when you prepare your state income tax return, please consider thinking of our friends and neighbors in need – and “check the box.”
Ryan Quarles serves as Commissioner of Agriculture for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.