FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 15, 2012) — At a time when food banks are experiencing unprecedented demand for emergency food assistance, Kentucky residents will soon have a new opportunity to join the fight against hunger. Surrounded by farmers and anti-hunger advocates, Gov. Steve Beshear on Thursday signed a bill that will allow Kentucky residents to donate a portion of their income tax refund to support the Farms to Food Banks Trust Fund.
House Bill 419, which passed unanimously in the House and Senate, allows taxpayers to make voluntary contributions to the Farms to Food Banks Trust Fund. It will take effect during the 2013 tax season.
Administered by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, the fund is intended to provide grants for the distribution of Kentucky-grown surplus agricultural commodities to low-income individuals. It was established in 2009 but has never received any funding.
The Kentucky Association of Food Banks’ Farm to Food Banks program increases access to fresh fruits and vegetables among low-income Kentuckians while supporting farmers. The association purchases surplus and Number 2 grade produce for distribution free of charge to low-income Kentuckians. This is food that typically would be plowed under rather than harvested due to the absence of a market for it. The goal of the program is to pay fair prices that help farmers recoup losses while diverting what would have been wasted food to struggling Kentuckians.
“This taxpayer-donated fund has the ability to raise money to supply nutritious food to the needy while expanding the market for Kentucky grown surplus and second-quality produce,” Beshear said. “It’s a win for low-income families and it’s a win for producers.”
“This legislation falls in line perfectly with Kentucky Proud’s goal of finding new markets for Kentucky farm products,” said Agriculture Commissioner James Comer. “At the same time, it provides a new source of revenue for an important program that enables less fortunate Kentuckians to serve healthful meals to their families. I’m pleased that the Kentucky Department of Agriculture is involved in this effort.”
Former state Rep. Fred Nesler, D-Mayfield, was the bill’s sponsor.
“Helping neighbors with a need as basic as food is something that, fortunately, many people are willing to do,” Nesler said. “They just need to be asked. I think giving Kentuckians the opportunity to make a donation when they’re filing for a tax return could make a real difference all over the state.”
Co-sponsors included Reps. Royce Adams, Jeff Greer, Tom McKee, Tommy Turner and Susan Westrom.
An estimated 750,420 people in Kentucky — or 17.3 percent of the population — are food insecure, meaning that they don’t always know where they will find their next meal, according to new research released recently by Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization.
“With a large increase in the number of people seeking food assistance from our state’s food bank network in the last couple of years, we are looking for every possible avenue to ensure that there is enough healthy food for those who need it,” said Tamara Sandberg, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Food Banks. “The check-off box will make it easy for people to donate a portion of their tax refund to programs that provide healthy produce to their struggling neighbors and reduce the amount of wasted food in Kentucky.”
With a grant from the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund and matching support from the Walmart Foundation, the association distributed 792,225 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables through its Farms to Food Banks program in 2011. This represents 1.2 million meals supplemented with half a plate full of fruits and vegetables. Purchased from 202 Kentucky farmers, the produce was distributed in 109 Kentucky counties.
For more information about food resources, go to www.kafb.org.