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Kentucky 'Farms to Food Banks' Adds More Varieties and Frozen Produce

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G.J. Strang/University of Kentucky
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Kentucky’s Farms to Food Banks program increased the types of produce purchased from farmers in 2019.

It also began a new project to freeze some items that were sent along to food banks.

Farms to Food Banks buys what’s sometimes called “ugly produce.” It’s healthy, but not perfect enough in appearance to be sold to grocery stores.

The program pays farmers enough to cover the cost of labor, packaging and transportation, and keeps the imperfect produce from going to waste.

Sarah Vaughn, programs coordinator for Feeding Kentucky, said the program bought 22 types of produce in 2018, with that figure increasing to 28 varieties in 2019.

“We jumped up six types by getting at least one of everything on our list that we accept,” said Vaughn. She said the increase in 2019 was mostly related to fall produce, like sweet potatoes and winter squash.

Overall, in 2019 the program distributed nearly three million pounds of produce to seven regional food banks and 500 local food pantries.

The average payment to farmers in 2019 was $1,273, while that amount was $1,691 in 2018.

The maximum paid to a farmer increased dramatically in 2019 to $88,205, compared to the maximun of $34,621 in 2018.

The number of agencies that received produce in 2019 rose to 497, up from 456 in 2018.

The 2019 Farms to Food Banks season was extended with a new project to freeze some items. 

“In addition to just distributing raw produce, we also were able to distribute some frozen butternut squash, corn and some apples, as well,” said Vaughn.

Three processors collaborated on the project: Food Chain in Lexington, CANE Kitchen in Whitesburg, and Lee’s Garden Center in Hodgenville. The frozen items came with preparation instructions and recipes.

Rhonda Miller joined WKU Public Radio in 2015. She has worked as Gulf Coast reporter for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, where she won Associated Press, Edward R. Murrow and Green Eyeshade awards for stories on dead sea turtles, health and legal issues arising from the 2010 BP oil spill and homeless veterans.
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