A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky program pays farmers to work with local food banks to provide those in need local produce

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

Many Kentucky farmers are participating in a statewide program that channels produce to local food banks.

The program – one of the first of its kind in the country – pays farmers to harvest, pack and transport produce from the field to families in need.

In 2018, more than 3 million pounds of fresh produce were distributed to Kentuckians in need through the Farms to Food Banks program. (Image from Adobe Stock, via PNS)

Cynthia Kirkhart runs Facing Hunger Food Bank in Huntington, W.Va. Her organization works with farmers in four Kentucky counties.

Kirkhart says several years ago, it became clear that to reduce dependence on tobacco, farmers would have to make a living growing other crops.

“And the Farms to Food Banks program kind of capitalized on that transition from tobacco as being the main crop in Kentucky to the opportunity of the Department of Agriculture encouraging farmers to raise other crops, how to ensure that the farmers would not really take a beating in crops that they were not able to sell,” she states.

Most of the produce transferred to food banks is cosmetically blemished. Kirkhart points out that while those fruits and vegetables may not be suitable for the supermarket, they are still tasty.

She says that by distributing food that would otherwise be tossed out, the program is reducing waste.

Last year, more than 3 million pounds of fresh produce were distributed to Kentuckians struggling with hunger.

Kirkhart says she hopes the program can surpass that number.

“Looking at that eight-year period, we’re talking about 30 million meals to families, so that’s quite an impact,” she points out.

Feeding Kentucky, the organization that runs Farms to Food Banks says it’s actively working to expand farmer participation in the program in more counties.

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