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Kentucky Agriculture Department Launches Program to Fight Food Insecurity for Kids

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture launched a new initiative designed to combat food insecurity for children in the summers when school - and school lunches - are out of session.

In a speech at the Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Conference, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles announced that the Kentucky-grown Fruit and Vegetable Incentive Program (K-VIP) will create an economic incentive for summer meal programs to buy fruit and vegetables produced in Kentucky by Kentucky growers. Funded by a grant from the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board (KADB), and administered by the Kentucky Association of Food Banks (KAFB), the program is the first of its kind in the nation.

"The K-VIP program gives summer feeding programs an added incentive to provide fresh, locally grown fruit and vegetables for hungry kids in the summer months while expanding market access for Kentucky farmers. It's a win-win for Kentucky," said Quarles.

Currently, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reimburses summer site sponsors for meals served at feeding sites, and claims for reimbursement are processed by the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE). For every lunch served, the summer feeding site sponsor receives reimbursement from USDA of $3.83.

"With over 2.8 million meals served to children in summer 2017, the Summer Food Service Program is excited that many meals will now include locally grown produce," said Cathy Gallagher, section supervisor of the Summer Food Service Program in the KDE. "We look forward to seeing this unique program provide wonderful fresh fruit and vegetables to Kentucky's children."

The KADB granted KAFB $185,000 in funds for one year of K-VIP reimbursements. Any unused funds will be returned to the KADB for reinvestment in further diversification of Kentucky's agricultural economy.

To participate in K-VIP, summer feeding site sponsors must submit a K-VIP enrollment application by April 15. Applications can be found at: www.kykidseat.org/kvip.

Kentucky growers may contact Tina Garland ([email protected]) at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to connect with summer feeding site sponsors in their area.

-Staff report
Photo: Ryan Quarles (provided)