Agriculture Commissioner Quarles launches task force to help feed the hungry

06/02/2016 02:30 PM

SHELBYVILLE — Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles launched a statewide Kentucky Hunger Task Force initiative Thursday aimed to help combat hunger in Kentucky.

Map the Meal Gap, an annual study of Feeding America, revealed that 17 percent of Kentucky’s population — or 1 in 6 — was food insecure in 2014, meaning they lacked access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.

The Hunger Task Force is part of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Hunger Initiative, a first-of-its-kind effort to alleviate food insecurity in Kentucky. The objective of the Hunger Task Force will be to study the sources of hunger, identify the unique issues that affect different regions of the state and take an inventory of resources that can be brought to feed the hungry.

Quarles says the the role of the task force is to bring experts together from many backgrounds to look at ways to put farmers’ excess product on the tables of Kentucky’s needy population.

“It’s a first-of-its-kind attempt to bring everyone involved with food production, starting with those who plant the seeds and ending with those that serve the food at restaurants and everyone in between, to talk about what they can do to help solve and address an issue that affects 1 in 6 Kentuckians and 1 in 4 school children,” Quarles said.

Quarles admits that one of the biggest problems with hunger is that many times it’s hard to measure and identify.

“It’s an incredibly complex issue, and it’s going to have to involve a lot of different solutions, and so we are really going to take our time to study the issue and to try to understand it better before offering a strategic plan,” he said.

A major component to getting food to needy Kentuckians rests with food pantries across the state.

Tamara Sandberg, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Food Banks, says that the initiative will provide the opportunity for key stakeholders to work together to identify gaps and direct resources to fill those holes.

“The Kentucky farmers, they want to help. They hate to see food go to waste in the field, and so our role is try to make it possible for them to donate the product that they want to donate,” Sandberg said. “It’s not just the value of the product. I’s the labor to pick it, it’s the boxes to pack it in and it’s the freight to get it to the food bank.”

The initiative would not exist if not for the cooperation of the state’s agricultural community.

Mary Courtney, a farmer from Shelby County, is one of two farmers on the task force.

Courtney sees the initiative as a win-win for the agricultural community as well as the state.

“It’s a sad reality when you raise a lot of vegetables, there is a lot of waste,” Courtney said. “So it’s a win-win for us to be able to find a home for those items because even though that might not necessarily pay your bills, it fills you up to be able to know that you have a home for that.”

Members of the task force include:

▪ Laura Melillo Barnum, executive director of Yum Foundation and Global Community Investment, Yum Brands

▪ David Beck, executive vice president, Kentucky Farm Bureau

▪ Warren Beeler, executive director, Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy

▪ Rodney Booe, pastor, Campbellsville Christian Church

▪ Danielle Bozarth, programs director, God’s Pantry Food Bank

▪ Tony Brannon, dean, Hutson School of Agriculture, Murray State University

▪ Gina Carrington, assistant director of Community Based Services, Cabinet for Health and Family Services

▪ Mary Courtney, Shelby County farmer

▪ Nancy Cox, dean, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment

▪ Valerie Crouch, program manager for school and community nutrition, Kentucky Department of Education

▪ David Dodd, executive director, National Center for Hospitality Studies, Sullivan University

▪ Thomas Fern, Kentucky state director, USDA Rural Development

▪ Jamie Guffey, executive director, Kentucky Poultry Federation

▪ Bonnie Jolly, executive director, Kentucky Pork Producers

▪ David Maples, executive vice president, Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association

▪ Ted Mason, executive director, Kentucky Grocers Association

▪ Tim McGurk, director of public affairs, Kroger Louisville Division

▪ Ryan Quarles, agriculture commissioner

▪ Martin Richards, executive director, Community Farm Alliance

▪ Brian Riendeau, executive director, Dare to Care

▪ Tamara Sandberg, executive director, Kentucky Association of Food Banks

▪ Suzanne Cecil White, Daviess County farmer

▪ Stephanie Wooten, executive director, GLEAN KY

For more information about the Hunger Task Force and the Hunger Initiative, go to


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