University of Kentucky College of Agriculture

TThe mission of the Kentucky Association of Food Banks (KAFB) is to end hunger by providing food and quality services to increase the capacity of Kentucky's Feeding America food banks. The Association is comprised of seven food banks that reach 620,100 people annually, or 1 in 7 Kentuckians in all 120 counties.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture provided a Specialty Crop Block Grant to KAFB in 2011, for the "Farms to Food Banks" program. This program intended to increase consumption and awareness of fresh fruits and vegetables among low-income consumers, through a targeted fresh produce distribution program; the competitiveness of Kentucky's specialty crop market was also enhanced.

 

A survey of food bank clients showed the following:

1. The vast majority of responses came from persons primarily responsible for the grocery shopping (94 percent) and preparing the main meals at home (92 percent). The average client responding prepared 13.2 meals at home per week – equivalent to approximately 52 meals per month. This is compared to an average of 11.0 meals per month prepared at home by the average Kentucky food consumer.

2. Awareness and familiarity with fresh produce increased some for 25.2 percent of the clients, and increased by a lot for 26.2 percent, compared to the previous year.

3. Consumption of fresh produce increased some for 29.3 percent of the clients, and increased by a lot for 30.3 percent, compared to the previous year.

4. A total of 88.5 percent of the clients indicated an intention to use more fresh produce in 2012 compared to 2011. The grocery store had previously been the largest supplier to many respondents. Sourcing shifted slightly to heavier reliance on the food banks – this is in share of sourcing rather than measuring absolute consumption amounts.

5. To examine barriers to sourcing and consuming fresh produce, we employed a Likert scale, using 1 = "less of a barrier" and 7 = "more of a barrier". This rating scale provided us with interesting insight into how food bank consumers think about food. Cost was identified most frequently as "more of a barrier" with an average weight of 5.42 — well ahead of the other potential barriers. Family interest and home storage were rated at 3.09 and 3.07, respectively. Bulky transport (2.74), knowing how to prepare it (2.51), and no access to stores that sell it (2.50) were less significant barriers.

6. There was a strong interest in seeing more fresh produce available through the food pantry – 21.7 percent of consumers indicated they would like to see more of the same kinds of items currently being received, and 74.9 percent indicated wanting more of the same, but also additional produce offerings.

There is strong evidence of expanded awareness and use of fresh produce among food bank clients in the Farms to Food Banks program. According to our results, food bank clientele produce a significant amount of their food at home and lean heavily on groceries and food banks for produce. There was interest in an expanded program – both in volume and in the variety of items. Cost is clearly the major barrier for these individuals. Food banks significantly help consumers overcome cost barriers that deny them access to more fresh produce.

This article was written by Tim Woods and Miranda Hileman in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. The article first appeared in the Jan. 25 edition of Economic and Policy Update.