First-in-nation incentive aims to provide more local produce for Kentucky kids in summer meal programs

Ag. Commissioner Ryan Quarles
Ag. Commissioner Ryan Quarles

LEXINGTON (Jan. 8, 2018) — Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles today unveiled an initiative that will open a new front on combating food insecurity: summer meals for Kentucky children.

In a speech at the Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Conference, Commissioner Quarles announced that the Kentucky-grown Fruit and Vegetable Incentive Program (K-VIP) will create an economic incentive for summer meal programs to buy fruit and vegetables produced in Kentucky by Kentucky growers. Funded by a grant from the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board (KADB), and administered by the Kentucky Association of Food Banks (KAFB), the program is the first of its kind in the nation.

“When we started the Kentucky Hunger Initiative two years ago, we began a conversation about how to combat the unfortunate reality that one in five Kentucky school children are food insecure,” said Commissioner Quarles. “The K-VIP program gives summer feeding programs an added incentive to provide fresh, locally grown fruit and vegetables for hungry kids in the summer months while expanding market access for Kentucky farmers. It’s a win-win for Kentucky.”

“One of the goals of the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy is to invest in the future of Kentucky agriculture,” said Warren Beeler, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy (GOAP). “When the Ag Development Board saw this unique, first-of-its-kind proposal, it jumped at the chance to expand market access for farmers and feed hungry kids at the same time.”

Currently, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reimburses summer site sponsors for meals served at feeding sites, and claims for reimbursement are processed by the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE). For every lunch served, the summer feeding site sponsor receives reimbursement from USDA of $3.83.

To participate in K-VIP, sponsors must be approved by the KDE to serve as summer meal site sponsors. In addition, sponsors must submit a K-VIP Enrollment Application to KAFB at www.kykidseat.org/kvip by April 15, 2018. Enrolled sponsors must submit K-VIP reimbursement claims to the KDA by Sept. 15. KAFB will send out K-VIP reimbursement payment on or about Oct. 31.

Enrolled sponsors will be eligible for reimbursement for up to one-third of total dollars spent on Kentucky-grown produce. Due to the limited number of funds, there is no guarantee of reimbursement. K-VIP payments will be capped at 10 cents times the total number of meals reimbursed by USDA.

“With over 2.8 million meals served to children in summer 2017, the Summer Food Service Program is excited that many meals will now include locally grown produce,” said Cathy Gallagher, section supervisor of the Summer Food Service Program in the KDE. “We look forward to seeing this unique program provide wonderful fresh fruit and vegetables to Kentucky’s children.”

“It is unacceptable that one in five children in Kentucky lack consistent access to an adequate diet necessary for an active, healthy life,” said Tamara Sandberg, executive director of the KAFB. “The summer meals program helps ensure children receive the nutritious food they need to thrive during the summer months when school is out. K-VIP will help increase the portion of local Kentucky produce served through summer meals. The Kentucky Association of Food Banks is proud to partner on this new effort and administer K-VIP through our Kentucky Kids Eat campaign.”

The KADB granted KAFB $185,000 in funds for one year of K-VIP reimbursements. Any unused funds will be returned to the KADB for reinvestment in further diversification of Kentucky’s agricultural economy.

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