Farms to Food Banks

Feeding Kentucky/Farms to Food Banks

A perfect appearance isn’t everything when it comes to produce. 

The Kentucky Farms to Food Banks program proves that by purchasing what's affectionately called 'ugly produce.'  That's fruits and vegetables with a bruise or imperfect shape that makes it hard to sell to grocery stores that want to display 'perfect' produce. 

But ugly produce can still be fresh and nutritious, and help stock the pantries of families that are food insecure. 

The Farms to Food Banks program is beginning to line up farmers who want to sell extra produce ranging from apples to zuccini this year.

Farms to Food Banks is in excellent financial shape thanks to the generosity that continued through the COVID-19 pandemic. 


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Kentucky farmers have until April 5 to sign up with the Farms to Food Banks program if they want to sell produce that’s not considered ‘picture perfect’ enough for grocery stores.

The Farms to Food Banks program is increasing its statewide outreach to farmers as planting season gets underway.

Last year, 349 farmers from 64 counties in Kentucky sold surplus portions of their crops, as well as slightly imperfect produce, often called ‘ugly’ produce, to the Farms to Food Banks program.

'Ugly' produce may vary in size, shape or appearance from what grocery stores prefer, but the imperfect produce purchased for the program is equally fresh and nutritious. 


Kentucky Association of Food Banks

A new study on food insecurity found that 700,000 people in Kentucky - that’s one-in-six - are not sure where their next meal is coming from. The study by Feeding America called ‘Map the Meal Gap 2017’ shows that many Kentucky counties have a rate of food insecurity higher than the national average of 14 percent.

Barren, Hardin and Ohio counties are at 15 percent. Warren County is at 16 percent.

Tamara Sandberg is executive director of the Kentucky Association of Food Banks. She says Feeding America saw the need in Warren County long before this latest study, and last July began distributing truckloads of food once a month at Lampkin Park. 

Owensboro Regional Farmers Market

As farmers across Kentucky gear up for growing season, the Farms to Food Banks program is already getting calls from some who are interested in selling a portion of this year’s produce to help families in need.

The statewide project buys not-quite-perfect or extra produce and distributes it to more than 500 organizations. Those groups pass the food along to families in their region. 

Last year 385 farmers in 67 Kentucky counties participated in the effort.

Sally Nash of Daviess County said she sells mainly at the Owensboro Regional Farmers Market.

Kentucky Association of Food Banks

A Kentucky program that increases the amount of produce in food banks is paying farmers more for their crops.

The Kentucky Farms to Food Banks program wants to make sure farmers can cover the cost of growing, picking and getting their produce to food banks.

So the program is compensating farmers based on wholesale produce prices in Atlanta, Chicago and St. Louis, instead of on Kentucky markets.

Tamara Sandberg is executive director of the Kentucky Association of Food Banks. She says farmers will likely be paid 46 cents a pound for tomatoes this season, up from 30 cents a pound last year.

“Another real popular crop has been yellow squash. Last year we paid an average of 25 cents a pound and this year it will be closer to 39 cents a pound,” says Sandberg.  “Sweet corn went up a lot, too, yes. Last year it was 17 cents a pound and this year we should be paying closer to 43 cents a pound.”

The Farm to Food Banks programs buys produce that farmers can’t sell to grocery stores because it has minor blemishes. The program increases the amount of produce available for Kentucky food banks. 

Even though it’s early in the season, Farms to Food Banks has already begun expanding this year.  Last year 302 farmers took part in the program, and they are likely to continue in 2016. So far this year, 26 new farmers have signed on.

Sandberg says farmers from 58 counties are taking part in the program. 

Changes in food stamp requirements are causing some area food banks to prepare for an increased demand.

Up to 9,000 people in eight Kentucky counties could be impacted by the changes the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, that went into effect May 1.

Glenn Roberts is executive director of Tri-State Food Bank in Evansville. It serves parts of Indiana, Kentucky, and Illinois. In Kentucky, it serves Henderson and Daviess counties.

Roberts says one Kentucky program is well-positioned to help stock food banks with healthy produce. It’s called Farms to Food Banks. 

“It’s a program that’s funded by the Kentucky state government in which farmers are compensated, they’re paid for what’s called their number two produce,” says Roberts. “This is the produce that doesn’t make it to the grocery store shelves.”

Roberts says the change in the food stamp requirements comes at a time when the growing and harvesting season could encourage more farmers to stretch the value of their produce.