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Kentucky food charities receive $500,000 donation as food banks face challenge of rising demand

"This COVID19 period has helped amplify the need for us to be our brother's keeper and look out for those in need."

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Three Kentucky charities aimed at fighting food insecurity and hunger are getting a big financial boost at a time when food banks around the country are struggling to keep up with the rising demand for their services.

The Kentucky Farm Bureau Mutual Agriculture Insurance Company and the Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance Foundation will donate $500,000 to Feeding Kentucky, Glean Kentucky and Hunters for the Hungry. The donation is part of Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles' Kentucky Hunger Initiative, which was started in 2016 to help Kentuckians have better access to food.

"This COVID19 period has helped amplify the need for us to be our brother's keeper and look out for those in need," Quarles said.

According to Quarles, before the coronavirus pandemic, around one in seven Kentuckians struggled with food insecurity, which was higher than the national average. But in the last month, food banks in Kentucky have seen a 40 percent increase in demand for assistance, according to Feeding Kentucky, which oversees most of the food banks in the state.

"In some parts of the state it's even higher," Feeding Kentucky Executive Director Tamara Sandberg said. "It's more like 50 to 60 percent."

Sandberg said one of the big reasons for the spike in activity is the rise in unemployment as many Kentuckians have lost jobs or have been furloughed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

"That has just meant exponentially more people turning to food banks as the only source putting food on the table," she said. "During this time with missed wages, when kids are missing school meals, when senior citizens don't have meals they're used to getting from their senior centers, food banks have really been struggling to keep pact with the increased need as a result of this pandemic."

Sandberg said Feeding Kentucky will be using its portion of the donation to work with farmers get their products directly to food banks.

"It will try to help them cover their costs of getting the protein and great sources of good they haven't been able to sell through their normal channels to get that to food banks to distribute to people in need," she said.

Farmers have also felt th economic ramifications of the pandemic as the tremors have reached all levels of the supply chain. Many have had to get rid of their products because of the slim commercial demand with the closings of restaurants and stores.

"The money will be primarily utilized to buy up product that is out in the market right now without a home to go to," Quarles said.

Sandberg said the demand for resources is so high that it will likely be able to use all of its donation money by June. With experts still uncertain about when the economy will be able to start opening back up, Sandberg and Quarles said it is still important that other businesses and individuals donate to continue helping those in need.

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