By DOUG SCHMITZ
FRANKFORT, Ky. – The USDA recently announced it has signed a cooperative agreement with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Food Distribution Division to receive a $5.4 million grant to obtain food through the federal Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program.
“Kentucky’s rich agricultural land doesn’t shield its residents from food insecurities,” said Ryan Quarles, Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture. “With one in seven Kentuckians, including one in six children, facing food struggles, we are extremely excited for the opportunities this grant presents.
“We will be able to provide quality food to those who need it most,” he added. “Our Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Food Distribution team will work hard to get the most out of this USDA grant, resulting in the biggest impact for our state.”
Umder the program, the USDA will award up to $400 million nationwide through non-competitive cooperative agreements with state and tribal governments to support local, regional, and underserved producers through the purchase of food produced within the state or within 400 miles of delivery destination.
“The USDA is excited to partner with Kentucky to promote economic opportunities for farmers and producers, and to increase access to locally sourced, fresh, healthy, and nutritious food in underserved communities,” said Jenny Lester Moffitt, USDA undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs.
“The Local Food Purchase Cooperative Agreement Program will improve food and agricultural supply-chain resiliency and increase local food consumption around the country,” she added.
With the assistance of the Local Food Purchase Cooperative Agreement Program funding, the Local Food Purchase Cooperative Agreement Program will administer the funds through three main projects.
Two of the projects will include a partnership with the Feeding Kentucky network of food banks to purchase and distribute food; and the expansion of frozen meal preparation and distribution programs at non-profit organizations.
The third project will focus on providing boxed food items from a variety of producers to food-insecure Kentuckians. Boxes may include partially prepared or processed items to make meal preparation easier for recipients.
The department said food purchases will be made through local Kentucky producers at fair market prices to establish and strengthen market channels. A primary goal is that these partnerships will develop into sustainable, long-term commercial relationships for local producers.
Katrina Thompson, Feeding Kentucky, Inc., executive director, said approximately $1.6 million dollars will go directly to Feeding Kentucky, Inc., which is an umbrella nonprofit who’s board is made up of its seven food bank CEOs across Kentucky.
Thompson said Feeding Kentucky works to collaborate with and supply produce and protein products to its food banks through its Farms to Food Banks program.
“This funding will support Feeding Kentucky’s Farms to Food Banks program by purchasing Kentucky-produced products both produce and protein, which will then be distributed to our food banks and pantries,” she said.
She added this funding focuses on disadvantaged farmers in Kentucky.
“The grant will enable Feeding Kentucky and the Food Banks to engage with a larger group of farmers and providers, and strengthen our current Farms to Food Banks program,” she said.
She said the grant will also enable the program to operate year round “to help ensure that Kentuckians do not have to wonder and worry where their next meal is coming from, or whether they will have to choose between rent, medicine, or other important needs and buying food for their family.
“Not only will the grant feed more families, it will also assist the economy of our disadvantaged farmers and producers,” she added.