By TIM THORNBERRY
FRANKFORT, Ky. — The effort to help alleviate hunger in the state recently got a boost through legislation as lawmakers passed a measure (House Bill 141) that will give farmers a tax credit for their donations to food banks.
Beginning next year producers who donate an edible agriculture product to a food bank “will be eligible to receive a credit against their state tax liability equal to 10 percent of the value of the donated product,” according to information from the Kentucky Assoc., of Food Banks (KAFB).
The bill passed the House unanimously with its provisions attached to Senate Bill 1, the military voting bill, and passing that chamber in the final minutes of this year’s General Assembly session.
Rep. Tom McKee (D- Cynthiana) sponsored the bill along with 28 co-sponsors from both sides of the isle. It was a McKee-sponsored bill that also established the Farm to Food Banks program in 2009 that helps get available surplus goods or “seconds” from state farms to food banks located throughout Kentucky.
He said it’s important to find ways to get food to those in need to help make them healthier, have a better lifestyle and a better general being and existence.
“If we can expose people to how nutritious fresh vegetables, meats and other things are, then we might create better eating habits,” he said.
McKee also said this bill will allow farmers to get a tax credit on produce that could be considered seconds, still good and nutritious but that other wise might not be used. This bill will allow the farmer to at least have a chance to get back labor costs.
“I think this might be an incentive for them to do it. It helps everybody; the farmer, the food bank and the people that need the food,” he said.
Since getting the Farm to Food Banks law passed, funding sources have been sought. Both the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund and private contributions have helped moved food from the fields to food banks. And even without money from the state’s general fund, a great deal of produce has been received thanks to the program.
“I have been ecstatic about success of the Farm to Food Banks program. Last year we moved about a million pounds into that program,” McKee said.
He also credited others that have been instrumental in the cause including Tamara Sandberg, KAFB executive director and Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, a board member of God’s Pantry Food Bank.
“The generosity House Bill 141 enables and inspires will make a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians,” Lundergan Grimes said. “It is a great example of efficient and effective government and the kind of partnerships and cooperation that will ensure Kentucky’s brightest days are ahead.”
Sandberg said she is pleased with the wide range of bi-partisan support the bill had and how vital farmers are in getting food to the needy.
“Our food banks are feeding more people than ever before, and this new law will not only increase our food supply but will also provide a benefit to the state’s farmers, who are crucial allies in the fight against hunger,” she said.
According to the latest data from Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization, “more than 750,000 people in Kentucky or 17 percent of the population, are food insecure, meaning that they don’t always know where they will find their next meal.”
Sandberg said this latest legislation is just one piece of the puzzle in trying to get an adequate and healthy food supply to those that need it while providing another revenue stream for farmers which is the idea of the Farm to Food Banks initiative.
“Of course producers would prefer to receive more than 10 percent of the value and if we had an appropriation from the state, that would allow us to do that,” she said. “But even having them able to get a 10 percent credit back, it is a way of helping the farmer cover the cost of their donation. And it’s not just the value of the food they donate, it’s the time they spend picking the food, packing it and delivering it to the food bank, as well.”
Additional funding would benefit the farmers even more, Sandberg added. And more funding means more food for the food banks.
The Kentucky Agricultural Development Board has been helpful in providing some of that needed revenue. In fact, the board just approved a $75,000 matching grant to the KAFB. These funds along with private donations are helping to make the fight against hunger a true private-public partnership, said Sandberg.
“The more private support we get the more federal and state sources we can go after and vice-versa, so it works really well,” she said.
At the heart of all the initiatives and the legislation is to provide food for hungry people. Sandberg said it is often a hidden problem due to the fact that many stereotypes exist about who is hungry and why and the hunger problem is much more widespread than people realize.
For more details on Kentucky Assoc. of Food Banks, visit www.kafb.org