By Grace Ann Rogers —

Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles said food insecurity in Kentucky can be solved by donations in a U of L forum Jan. 24.

The lecture was called “Unbridled Hunger: Food Insecurity Challenges and Solutions for Kentucky,” and it primarily featured information about the Kentucky Hunger Initiative, an organization that brings a wide swath of organizations together in efforts of combating food insecurity and ensuring food pantries have ample donations.

While completing a listening tour across the state of Kentucky, Quarles explained he and members of the Kentucky Hunger Initiative realized there are logistical issues in Kentucky when it comes to food distribution.

Among these issues are barriers in food donation laws that make it complicated for Kentucky grocery stores to donate unused food to pantries.

Quarles said his office and the initiative decided to rewrite Kentucky’s food donation law.

“We now have the strongest food donation law in the nation,” Quarles said.

Quarles also announced the agricultural commission just worked with the governor’s wife Glenna Bevin on a children’s book about issues of food insecurity, nutrition and local agriculture.

Nearing the end of the event, community members were offered the opportunity to ask the commissioner questions. Kelsey Voit, organizing director for the Community Farm Alliance and council member for New Roots, asked why customers of the New Roots Fresh Stop Farmers Market Program are still unable to redeem their senior vouchers at our markets.

“The guidelines that administer the voucher program are USDA federal guidelines,” Quarles said. This makes the problem nearly impossible to solve at the state level.

Commissioner Quarles expressed his appreciation for Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue, as well as Administrator for the EPA Scott Pruitt.

“I have a very positive feeling about agriculture when it comes to the Trump administration,” Quarles said.

Quarles said the problem is not an urban or a rural one. He said he believes deeply that food donation stands as the best solution to food insecurity.

“Giving access to food and preventing starvation is the best strategy there is,” Quarles said.

His speech was part of the McConnell Center’s spring semester public lecture series, “Taking Kentucky’s Temperature: The Future of Health Policy in the Commonwealth.”

File Photo / The Louisville Cardinal