A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentuckians can now donate to the Farms
to Food Banks program through tax refunds


By Tim Thornberry
KyForward correspondent
 

When the Kentucky General Assembly passed legislation several years ago to help farmers get their surplus produce – or “seconds” – to food banks, the legislation did not provide funding. Still, thanks to grants and donations, the Farm to Food Banks initiative has functioned, helping provide more food for the hungry and finding a new customer base for farmers.
 

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The Farm to Food Banks legislation was passed in 2009 to help alleviate hunger in Kentucky, as well as provide a new customer base for farmers. (Photo from KAFB)

Now, Kentuckians will have another way to contribute to the Farms to Food Banks Trust Fund by way of a donation from their income tax returns. Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer recently wrote an editorial addressing the issue. In it he wrote, “Kentuckians are some of the most generous folks you will ever meet. It’s part of our culture and values to share from our abundance with those who are less fortunate. This year, we all will have a new opportunity to do just that.”
 

Comer added that he hope Kentuckians will join him in supporting this effort to help Kentucky’s needy and Kentucky’s farmers and to look for the Farms to Food Banks Trust Fund box on their income tax form.
 

“The KDA will use that fund to award grants to non-profits for the purpose of paying farmers the cost for their unmarketable firsts and number two grade products and distributing it to hungry people through the food bank network,” said Tamara Sandberg, KAFB executive director.
 

Last fall, Sandberg spoke to legislators about the continuing need to fund the program in the current budgeting session. She said the lawmakers provided positive feedback about the situation.
 

“We’ve been working during the interim and have testified to a couple of legislative committees about it. We were able to meet with the Governor and First Lady Beshear about the request,” she said. “We’re asking for an appropriation of $500,000 a year, which would do so much good and for such a relatively small amount of money in the grand scheme of things and we’re really hoping that support will continue to grow among legislators.”
 

Sandberg added that the positive feedback and support has come from both sides of the isle. She said the only negative responses have been from farmers saying they wish the KAFB could buy more from them and that the money available runs out in the middle of the peak season.
 

“Last summer we were able to pay an average of $545 to 270 different farmers in 55 counties and we would love to have that be exponentially bigger to really start to make a difference on the farmers’ bottom line,” said Sandberg.
 

Starting this year, farmers will also be able to receive a tax credit of 10 percent for the total value of farm products donated to the food bank network. Sandberg said that doesn’t sound like a lot, but it becomes another piece of the puzzle as farmers work to cover their costs while making sure that healthy food does not get plowed under.
 

She noted that the KAFB is trying to get the word out about these endeavors, and farmers have been very interested as they try to make sure their extras go to hungry people and not go to waste.
 

Sandberg also pointed out that during this time of cold weather, when utility bills will rise, people will struggle even more to put food on the table thus creating more demand for the food banks.
 

“For a family that is struggling, a setback like a week of having your heater run constantly is going to be very hard for many of the families to overcome and they will have no choice but to turn to food banks to put food on the table because more of their very limited income is going to go for paying utilities and heating bills. It is a hard time for low-income families in Kentucky for sure,” she said.
 

For more information about KAFB click here.
 

Tim Thornberry is a freelance writer and photographer who has covered Kentucky agricultural and rural issues for various publications since 1995.


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