Monday, January 8, 2018

Tobacco-settlement funds will subsidize summer meal programs' purchase of Kentucky fruits and vegetables

The state Department of Agriculture is offering a subsidy for summer meal programs in Kentucky to buy fruit and vegetables produced in the state. The program is funded by $185,000 in tobacco-settlement money awarded by the state Agricultural Development Board and administered by the Kentucky Association of Food Banks

"The program is the first of its kind in the nation," the department said in a news release about the Kentucky-grown Fruit and Vegetable Incentive Program, which it calls K-VIP.

“When we started the Kentucky Hunger Initiative two years ago, we began a conversation about how to combat the unfortunate reality that one in five Kentucky school children are food-insecure,” Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said Jan. 8 at the Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Conference in Lexington. “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.”

Warren Beeler, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy, said the ag-development board “jumped at the chance to expand market access for farmers and feed hungry kids at the same time.” The board spends half the money from the states' 1998 settlement with cigarette manufacturers, with the goal of broadening the state's agricultural base.

Tamara Sandberg, executive director of the food-banks group, said in the release, “The summer meals program helps ensure children receive the nutritious food they need to thrive during the summer months when school is out. K-VIP will help increase the portion of local Kentucky produce served through summer meals.”

Meal programs served 2.8 million Kentucky children last summer. The U.S. Department of Agriculture "reimburses summer site sponsors for meals served at feeding sites, and claims for reimbursement are processed by the Kentucky Department of Education," the release said. "For every lunch served, the summer feeding site sponsor receives reimbursement from USDA of $3.83."

To participate in K-VIP, sponsors must be approved by the Education Department to serve as summer meal site sponsors and submit an enrollment application to the food-banks association at by April 15. Contact Cathy Gallagher ( at the Kentucky Department of Education to become an approved summer feeding site sponsor.

Enrolled sponsors will be eligible for reimbursement for up to one-third of their spending on Kentucky-grown produce. "Due to the limited number of funds, there is no guarantee of reimbursement," the release says. "K-VIP payments will be capped at 10 cents times the total number of meals reimbursed by USDA."
Kentucky growers may contact Tina Garland ( at the state Agriculture Department to connect with summer feeding site sponsors in their area.

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