LEXINGTON—Kentucky’s food banks want state General Fund support for their operations, a state legislative committee was told Wednesday.
Thirty eight states provide General Fund support for food banks, according to Tamara Sandberg with the Kentucky Association of Food Banks, but Kentucky is not one of them. She told the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture that Kentucky’s food banks need around $300,000 a year in General Fund support to meet their clients’ needs.
“Kentucky is at the bottom of too many lists,” she told the committee, adding that food banks would appreciate consideration during the 2014 Kentucky General Assembly. The next regular session, beginning in January, is a budget session.
The KAFB’s seven member food banks—nonprofit food distribution centers that supply food to people throughout their regions—are now funded mostly by grants or other available sources, such as state tobacco settlement funds which the KAFB or member food banks have received off and on since 2002.
The 2013 Kentucky General Assembly took action to support food banks, food pantries and shelters when it passed Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester. Now law, the legislation will allow producers to receive a tax credit of 10 percent of the value of edible agricultural products they donate to nonprofit food programs.
The tax credit provisions in SB 1 were originally found in House Bill 141, sponsored by committee co-chair Rep. Tom McKee, D-Cynthiana, and Rep. Mike Denham, D-Maysville. The provisions were attached to SB 1 for final passage late in the session.
McKee praised the food banks and their Farms to Food Banks program. The program was created in 2009 by legislation (HB 344) sponsored by McKee.
“One of the interesting things is when you expose people to fresh vegetables they’ve never been exposed to (before),” he told the committee.
Food banks and pantries will also benefit from a state income tax check-off that was created with the passage of House Bill 419, sponsored by former State Rep. Fred Nesler, D-Mayfield, and Rep. Tommy Turner, R-Somerset, in 2012. Kentucky taxpayers can begin using the check-off on their 2013 tax forms, Sandberg said.
Approximately 17 percent, or 750,000 individuals including one in four children, are considered hungry or “food insecure” in Kentucky today, Sandberg said. The national average food insecurity rate is 16.4 percent, according to data from the national hunger-relief charity Feeding America.