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Michele Dutcher has to take two buses to succeed in a grocery store simply two miles from her condo near downtown Louisville.
Nikki Boliaux and Matt Stone, Louisville Courier Journal

Rural communities nationwide are often hit hardest by meals insecurity, which means the people who reside there do not have enough access to wholesome, reasonably priced food.

Kentucky, in accordance with just lately released national knowledge, is not any exception.

However over the past three years, the state has made great strides toward addressing food insecurity in distressed rural communities — and it’s grow to be a mannequin for other states trying to attempt new solutions.

Earlier this yr, Kentucky hosted the first-ever Summit on Rural Youngster Hunger, organized by the national No Kid Hungry marketing campaign. The state was chosen partially because of its Hunger Initiative, an effort launched by Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles in 2016.

Because it began, the initiative has efficiently:

► Donated more than one hundred fifty refrigerated coolers and freezers to dozens of meals pantries statewide. The chilly storage has allowed the pantries to simply accept donations of recent and frozen proteins, milk and different gadgets that would beforehand have spoiled.

► Helped cross the “Meals Immunity Invoice,” which protects groceries, farmers and other entities that donate meals to nonprofit organizations from civil or felony legal responsibility as long as there was no intentional misconduct.

► Created an financial incentive for summer time meal packages, which inspires faculty- and nonprofit-led sites to buy extra vegatables and fruits from Kentucky farmers. In 2018, 30 sites participated in the pilot program, purchasing near 40,000 pounds of local produce that went to Kentucky youngsters.

► And launched the Farm to Food Banks Trust Fund, which awards grants to eligible nonprofit organizations that present food to low-revenue Kentuckians.

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“What we’ve discovered in Kentucky is that a one-measurement-matches-all answer does not work,” Quarles stated concerning the broad-ranging initiative. “We’re a very regional state, and we’ve got to adjust for variations. 

“We knew already we had lots of people operating in this sector. However we might do a greater job of serving to coordinate them and getting them collectively as a result of, fairly frankly, the price to Kentucky’s financial system, the fee to Kentucky’s potential workforce, the price to on a regular basis Kentucky schoolkids was just means too excessive to disregard.”

In line with the most recent national data, more than 660,000 Kentuckians were considered food insecure in 2017, including an estimated 186,000 children.

That number is down slightly from the 699,000 people who were considered food insecure in 2015 — thanks, in part, to continued economic recovery from the Great Recession.

But Kentucky still has a higher-than-average rate for food insecurity when…