Kentucky Association of Food Banks

Feeding Kentucky

The organization previously called the Kentucky Association of Food Banks has a new name and it’s pledging to continue initiatives to alleviate food insecurity. But even with the continuing support of many state leaders, the initiatives aren't making much of a dent in the state’s problem with hunger. 

In Kentucky, one-in-six people is food insecure. That’s a number the organization with the new name ‘Feeding Kentucky’ is determined to whittle down.

Executive Director Tamara Sandberg said many families and individuals aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from.

Bowling Green Housing Authority

A new grocery store is coming soon to what the U.S. Department of Agriculture has determined is a Bowling Green ‘food desert,’ where it’s difficult for residents to buy affordable or good quality fresh food. 

It’s one of 12 projects in the nation, and the only one in Kentucky, that’s just been awarded a grant from CSX railroad and The Conservation Fund. It’s not a brick-and-mortar grocery, it’s a renovated school bus.

The freshly painted white bus has bright green letters and pictures of fruits, vegetables and milk. It’s called the Mobile Grocery Store and it’s a project of the Bowling Green Housing Authority. 

Feeding America Kentucky's Heartland

America’s trade disputes have decreased the export of many food products, so the U.S. Department of Agriculture is buying surplus from farmers and distributing it through what’s called ‘trade mitigation’ programs. 

One Kentucky food bank director said the organization is short on funding required to get the perishables to families in need.

At Feeding America Kentucky’s Heartland in Elizabethtown, two tractor-trailer loads of apples from Michigan arrived recently, as well as a tractor-trailer full of potatoes. USDA surplus coming in also includes oranges, almonds, pistachios and canned pork in the form of barbecue or taco filling. More milk and cheese are due in.


Tri-State Food Bank/facebook

The partial federal government shutdown is sending unpaid workers across the country to food pantries as they struggle to pay essential household bills. 

In Kentucky, more than 600,000 residents get some of their food from the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The USDA issued February SNAP benefits earlier than usual. It’s unclear whether money will be  appropriated for SNAP in March if the shutdown continues.

Glenn Roberts is executive director of Tri-State Food Bank in Evansville, Indiana, which distributes food to soup kitchens and food pantries in parts of Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois. He said local food pantries are starting to see more people come in, but that could be just the tip of the iceberg.

Kentucky Association of Food Banks/WKMS

The partial government shutdown is beginning to affect Kentucky food banks as federal workers struggle to live without paychecks. 

Federal workers in Kentucky who are furloughed and or working without pay are feeling the financial strain on their grocery budgets.  

“What we are noticing is a large increase in inquiries," said Tamara Sandberg, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Food Banks. "People are calling, they’re sending social media saying, 'I’m impacted by the federal shutdown. What do I need to do to get help?' That’s why food banks and food pantries are here, we are here to help between paychecks, as you’re waiting for your next paycheck to come.”


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.