January 31, 2002 | By: Aimee D. Heald

The United States Department of Agriculture is seeking to cut hunger in half by 2015 and University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension professionals are taking steps to help.

“Extension is the perfect partner (with USDA) for trying to end hunger,” said Louise Moore, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program coordinator for UK Cooperative Extension. “EFNEP and UK’s family and consumer sciences department continually work with families we know are the working poor and hungry children. So, it’s perfect for us to be able to educate those people about resources they are eligible for and are not participating in for some reason or another.”

Moore said only about 72 percent of people eligible for food stamps are participating in the program and Extension can spread the word about eligibility and also teach participants how to stretch the resources they already have.

One of the biggest goals of the USDA initiative is to bolster supplemental food provided by non-profit groups by aiding in food recovery. This can help farmers, as well as hungry people. Extension is working closely with organizations like God’s Pantry Food Bank to get produce from the farms to the hungry in a way that benefits all involved.

Marion Blanchard is the executive director of God’s Pantry and also is involved in the Kentucky Agricultural Surplus Production Alliance. She and her group are trying to secure funding to reimburse Kentucky farmers for harvesting, processing, packing and transporting surplus products. This would save good food from being plowed under or thrown away. The farmer could do more with the product than filing it as a loss on a tax return, while at the same time helping hungry people.

“As farmers work to create new products for new markets, and be innovative in what they do, this program could actually provide them with a safety net,” Blanchard said. “We wouldn’t be purchasing their top-of-the- line products or first-quality market items, but we would be purchasing products that have no market. We could buy produce that’s a little bit too small or maybe has a few blemishes, but is perfectly healthy and good to be consumed otherwise.”

Moore said the project is a perfect marriage with agriculture since farmers need another outlet for products they can’t sell to their normal markets.

Many counties already have successful feeding projects, but Extension agents are sure the initiative will allow them to expand their reach and help hungry families as well as struggling farmers in their area.

“In Breathitt county we have a lot of families, children in particular, that do go hungry and I think the USDA initiative tying in farming to fight hunger is going to be a good thing,” said Martha Yount, Breathitt County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. “ We have a summer feeding program and feed lots of children through that, but I know we aren’t reaching everyone.”

Blanchard said Extension is the perfect way for food banks to connect with co-ops and other large growing groups and to get the word out to farm agencies and the general farm community.

Cooperation among states, municipalities, non-profit organizations and the private sector will be the only way to cut hunger in half by the USDA’s target year of 2015. Partnerships within states also are vital.

“I think it’s great that we are now developing a partnership with Kentucky Cabinet for Families and Children, Kentucky Department of Agriculture, and the Kentucky Department of Education,” Moore said. “It will take all of us together to cut hunger in half and meet the goals of the USDA initiative.”

Contact: 

Louise Moore  606-677-6168