A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

KY Department of Agriculture’s Hunger Initiative: Christmas comes early for Kentucky’s hungry

Thousands of surplus meal kits originally purchased for disaster victims will go to hungry Kentuckians thanks to a team effort of federal and state employees.

Feeding America Kentucky’s Heartland in Elizabethtown and God’s Pantry Food Bank in Lexington will receive a total of 314,496 meal kits from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at a cost to the food banks of $65,000, a fraction of the original $1.88 million cost.

“As part of our Hunger Initiative, we are always looking for ways to provide wholesome meals for our less fortunate friends and neighbors,” Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said. “This was a combined effort of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, the state Finance and Administration Cabinet, the federal government, and the food banks to bring these much-needed resources to Kentucky. I am deeply proud of our employees for their efforts, and I’m grateful to Finance and Administration Secretary Bill Landrum and his team for helping us spread a little extra Christmas cheer to Kentucky’s hungry.”

Michael Halligan, right, CEO of God’s Pantry Food Bank, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, center, and William M. Landrum III, secretary of the Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet. (KDA photo)

The federal General Services Administration (GSA) informed all state surplus programs in late November that FEMA would be transferring the surplus meal kits, and the Division of Surplus Property in the Finance and Administration Cabinet informed Bill Wickliffe, director of the KDA’s Food Distribution Division. KDA staff contacted leaders of God’s Pantry in Lexington and Feeding America Kentucky’s Heartland to ask if they would be interested in the surplus food. Commissioner Quarles wrote a letter to the GSA asking the agency to give Kentucky’s food banks priority to receive the meal kits.

KDA and Finance and Administration Cabinet employees helped the food banks complete the required paperwork. The food banks began placing orders with the Division of Surplus Property on Dec. 6.

“Our folks in Surplus Property have a good relationship with the federal GSA, which enables us to help local governments and charitable organizations obtain resources that they may not be able to afford otherwise,” said Secretary Landrum. “This partnership with FEMA and the Department of Agriculture is especially gratifying and is a wonderful example of how we can help those who are less fortunate.”

Feeding America Kentucky’s Heartland and God’s Pantry serve 92 of Kentucky’s 120 counties.

“The availability of this surplus FEMA product comes at an opportune time. Gathering and distributing food brings joy and hope to those who are hungry,” said Michael J. Halligan, CEO of God’s Pantry Food Bank.
“The food we are purchasing through the FEMA offering improves the nutritional variety of products we can distribute and will help create more than 70,000 additional meals during the holiday season. Many thanks to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, the Finance Cabinet, and the Division of Surplus Property for quickly and efficiently securing and delivering the surplus FEMA product to God’s Pantry Food Bank.”

During the news conference, Commissioner Quarles and KDA employees delivered 1,961 pounds of food products that department workers donated during the KDA’s annual canned food drive.

The Hunger Initiative is a first-of-its-kind effort in Kentucky that Commissioner Quarles launched in the spring of 2016 to bring together farmers, charitable organizations, faith groups, community leaders, and government entities to look for ways to reduce hunger in Kentucky.

Map the Meal Gap 2017, an annual study by Feeding America, revealed that one in every six Kentuckians – including one in five children – was food insecure in 2015, meaning that consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.

For more information about the Hunger Initiative, go to kyagr.com/hunger.
 

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