Fresh food a luxury for many

On a trip downtown just about any Saturday morning this time of year, a person doesn’t have to search long for Lexington’s local hot spot. The Lexington Farmer’s Market in Cheapside Park is hustling from just past dawn until mid-afternoon, packed with families filling bags, wagons and carts with beautiful locally grown produce.

For these families, this weekend tradition might seem like a routine not a luxury. But for many Kentucky families struggling to make ends meet in this troubled economic time, fresh fruits and vegetables seem as out of reach as new shoes for their children or taking a vacation.

The hard truth is this: More than 684,000 Kentuckians are struggling each day to meet the needs of their families. They are making decisions about whether to pay their rent or buy food, to fill up their gas tank so they can get to their low-paying job or purchase food. When these neighbors do have money to go shopping for food, fresh foods are not something on the top of their grocery lists.Fresh fruits and vegetables are the cornerstones of good nutrition — we all know this. But they are costly, making far less nutritious, but calorie-rich foods more appealing to the families we serve.

God’s Pantry Food Bank has made a commitment to providing food to more than 211,000 hungry Kentuckians living in the 50 counties we serve. For several years now, the food bank has put an emphasis on making sure more of that food is fresh produce. This year the food bank is looking to double the amount of produce it distributes, moving the mark to more than 6 million pounds of fruits and vegetables.

As you can imagine, distributing fresh product is an expensive endeavor, but one the food bank believes is the best way to help those most in need in our area. More than 25 million pounds of produce rotted in the fields in this country last year. That potentially wasted produce is the largest source that food banks like God’s Pantry have to continue to meet the growing demand for emergency food assistance.

We need the support of this community and the commonwealth now more than ever. As we continue to look for new and innovative ways of meeting the needs of our clients, community support, through financial donations, volunteerism and advocacy, is paramount.Marian Guinn is Chief Executive Officer of God’s Pantry Food Bank.