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Kentucky Farms to Food Banks season starting out strong

Feeding Kentucky / Farms to Food Banks

Kentucky’s Farms to Food Banks program is off to a healthy start this season, with 49 farmers already participating.

Farms to Food Banks buys what’s called “ugly produce.” It’s fresh and healthy, just not visually perfect enough for many grocery stores. The program pays farmers a price that generally covers harvesting, packing and transporting.

Products are distributed to food banks, pantries, shelters and soup kitchens across the state.

Last year 332 farmers participated. Program Manager Sarah Vaughn said year’s goal is to have at least that number, and hopefully, more.

“This season is looking really good, so far," said Vaughn. "We’ve worked with 49 farmers already this year, and it’s still just in the beginning of our produce season here in Kentucky.”

The organization has overcome challenges that arose during the COVID pandemic. The shutdown of hundreds of businesses caused the suspension of many jobs. The crisis left hundreds of Kentucky families short of money and food pantries experienced an increased demand.

During the early part of the pandemic Feeding Kentucky, the parent organization of Farms to Food Banks, got more grants than usual, from federal and state agencies and private organizations. The additional funding to keep food on family tables was one positive thing that occurred during the pandemic.

Farms to Food Banks was able to buy more products from farmers who lost their regular customers, like restaurants and schools, during the shutdown.

"We got more grant funding during COVID, which allowed us to kind of dive into the protein products. So, we’re able to get meat, cheese and eggs now," said Vaughn. "And so far, we’ve taken mostly beef and pork, but we have purchased some chicken, as well.”

Rhonda Miller began as reporter and host for All Things Considered on 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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