By Tamara Sandberg
During this season of gratitude and reflection, the 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 in the Commonwealth this year. Over 600,000 individuals received the equivalent of 58 million meals distributed by the seven regional Feeding America food banks in partnership with 800 local partners such as soup kitchens and shelters.
It would not have been possible without the 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 distributed through our network. Financial support from many generous individuals and foundations helped cover the cost of distributing the food across the Commonwealth. 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. Bevin and leaders of the Kentucky General Assembly for the state funding for the Farms to Food Banks program. Over 3 million pounds of Kentucky-grown produce was distributed through the food bank network in 2016 thanks to these funds, which helped cover the cost of donating produce to food banks rather than having it go to waste in the field.
The launch of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Hunger Initiative this year 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 in Kentucky.
Charity alone cannot solve the problem of hunger. 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 the 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 of hunger must be a priority in 2017. These are individuals who do not have consistent access to enough food for a healthy, 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 this month. Too many Kentuckians are one car accident or lengthy illness away from needing help putting food on the table. Hunger is a solvable problem if we continue working together.
To learn how you can get involved in the fight against hunger, visit KyFoodBanks.org.
About the Kentucky Association of Food Banks:
The Kentucky Association of Food Banks is Kentucky’s largest charitable response to hunger, representing Kentucky’s 7 regional Feeding America food banks (Dare to Care Food Bank; Facing Hunger Foodbank; Feeding America, Kentucky’s Heartland; Freestore Foodbank; God’s Pantry Food Bank; Purchase Area Development District; and Tri-State Food Bank) and over 800 member charities including food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters. Last year its members distributed the equivalent of 58 million meals to 1 in 7 Kentuckians across the Commonwealth.
Tamara Sandberg is executive director of the Kentucky Association of Food Banks.