• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Food pantry distributes fresh produce to local seniors

FRESH PRODUCE from the state's Farms to Food Banks program ensured local senior citizens received watermelons, cabbage, sweet corn and other Kentucky-grown vegetables on Tuesday morning. From left are Danielle Bozarth, program director for God's Pantry Food Bank in Lexington; Food Pantry for Woodford County volunteer Bill Phelps; state Rep. James Kay; Mike Halligan, CEO of God's Pantry; Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott; and Tamara Sandberg, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Food Banks, which supported legislation to fund the Farms to Food Banks program. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

Kentucky-grown produce was delivered to the Food Pantry for Woodford County on Tuesday morning. Senior citizens in the community living on fixed incomes received the fresh vegetables. The state's Farms to Food Banks program ensures tomatoes, corn, watermelons and other vegetables grown by Kentucky farmers are distributed to the hungry in communities across the state. "The legislature has taken a proactive bite against hunger and we've been able to pass some meaningful legislation in just the last three sessions, which really helps - not only here, but across Kentucky," said state Rep. James Kay. He and other state legislators allocate $600,000 a year to fund the Farms to Food Banks initiative, which provided the pallets of fresh produce delivered to the local food pantry on Tuesday. "At this time of the year, to get fresh produce, it's wonderful," said volunteer Bill Phelps, president of the Food Pantry for Woodford County's board of directors. He said about 108 senior households in the county are served through the food pantry's senior program on the first Tuesday of each month. When seniors arrived at the Food Pantry for Woodford County this past Tuesday, God's Pantry had delivered about 12,000 pounds of Farms to Food Banks produce. "In the summertime when we have access to those fresh crops and (we're) able to immediately get them to somebody in need - how cool is that?" said Mike Halligan, chief executive officer of God's Pantry in Lexington. "There's nothing better than a fresh ear of sweet corn or a tomato that you've cut into quarters, with a little bit of salt. There's just nothing better." Many of the seniors who received the fresh vegetables on Tuesday remember eating vegetables out of their gardens, said food pantry volunteer Peggy Carter Seal. She said local donations throughout the year ensure fresh vegetables are available to food-insecure families living in the community. In the next two to four weeks, the Food Pantry for Woodford County will receive a new freezer. God's Pantry Food Bank will deliver 45 freezers to Central and Eastern Kentucky communities as part of state Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles's Hunger Initiative. The freezers extend the life of perishable food items donated to local food pantries, according to Halligan. He said being able to freeze protein-rich meats also supports nutritional balance in a person's diet. Agricultural lenders Farm Credit Mid-America and CoBank provided the Kentucky Department of Agriculture with the 18 cubic-foot freezers for distribution to local food banks, according to a state Department of Agriculture press release.

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