By PJ Martin
If you have been keeping up with the county news, you have heard that the Bowling Park Food Pantry is in the process of expanding yet again. This need comes just 4 years after the last pantry expansion. That shows the dire need of families in this county when it comes to food insecurity.
What exactly does food insecurity mean? According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), food insecurity is the lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active and healthy life.
That comes as no surprise as food prices continue to increase. Anyone on a fixed income or working a low-paying job needs help to make ends meet.
According to Feeding America’s new study, 6.9 percent of Kentucky seniors (anyone 60+) and 14.6 percent of older adults were having problems getting food with many having to decide whether to buy food, medicine, pay utilities, or housing. Kentucky ranked 7th in the US for seniors on the edge of hunger.
The study also noted that Kentucky has the fourth highest rate of food insecurity among older adults aged 50 to 59 in the US with only Arkansas, Delaware, and Oklahoma having higher percentages.
Living in a rural area makes one even more likely to require food assistance. The study revealed that the rural areas in the US are where 89 percent of the food insecure people live. The report shows an average meal cost in a rural area is $3.10 with the national average of $3.59, however, not all rural areas have high food prices and not every rural community is affordable.
Food insecurity already existed, but the Covid-19 lock down crisis brought it to the spotlight. There are many causes of food insecurity such as no jobs available, low paying jobs, people on a fixed incomes like social security, or hardships such as chronic and disabling illness. All those mentioned can cause an income crisis.
The Food Pantry
Bowling Park’s food pantry has been stepping up to fill the hunger gap for many years. The pantry offers drive-through commodity pick-up for approximately 557 families per month that live in Metcalfe. Plus, they provide food in emergency situations. In May, they provided 50 emergency boxes of food to those in desperate need.
The pantry also provides senior boxes for those who qualify and they currently have 499 seniors on the list. Those boxes include items each month aside from the regular commodities such as shelf-stable milk, beans, rice, meat product, fruit, soup, juice, cereal, peanut butter, and cheese. The contents vary each month.
Park Director Lisa Boswell stated that for the year 2021, “The food pantry gave out 349,214 pounds of food and that doesn’t include senior boxes or commodities.”
She also explained that the food pantry receives food deliveries three times a week from various places such as Dollar General, Walmart, and Feeding America.
The park’s food pantry also works in conjunction with the Barren River Area Development District (BRADD) to provide meals through one of the BRADD programs. Each senior gets 6 boxes per month with each box holding 5 meals that can be heated and eaten. BRADD takes care of and registers participants in this program.
Boswell explained that a community meal is held at the park on the 3rd Wednesday of each month and attended by anywhere from 125 to 200 people. “The local churches come in, they do all the cooking and clean up.” She added that it is a wonderful thing for the senior widowed ladies in the community. Many of the people who attend are there as much for the friendship as for the food. A lot of these people live alone and cannot afford to eat out. “Many of them look forward to that day each month.”
With all this assistance offered to the hungry in the community, it’s no wonder Bowling Park needs a bigger pantry.
In 2022, Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman presented a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for $986,600 to be used to build a larger food pantry at Bowling Park and resurface the parking lot and driveway so that larger trucks can deliver food to the pantry.
The Metcalfe County Farmers Market and the Metcalfe County Extension Service are involved with several programs to help those who are in need.
The US Department of Agriculture oversees the state-managed Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) program both of these benefits are based on income for anyone 60 plus+ years of age or disabled. It provides a calculated benefit that individuals can use at the farmers market to purchase food.
The state of Kentucky oversees the Health Department, Community Action of S. KY, and Kentucky CHFS which determine eligibility and certify applicants for the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). This program is for low-income, pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, infants, and children up to age 5. The WIC benefits are accepted at the farmers market for the purchase of fruits, vegetables, cheese, and other specific food items.
The Kentucky Double Dollars Program (KDD) began in 2014 as a way to support the local food systems and increase the affordability of locally grown food to people using SNAP, WIC, and the Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP).
The double dollars program matches the shopper dollar per dollar. If a shopper has $4 to spend KDD turns that into $8. The program is so successful at the Metcalfe County Farmers Market that the state funding runs out early in the season so a Community Partners Program has been created to allow the program to run through the season. Local businesses along with city and county governments all donate $1,000 to the program each year. That helps cover the double-dollar purchases into the fall season.
Just as the food pantry is about to expand, the farmers market already has. A new indoor market building was completed in 2022 and enables the market to run into the colder months. Plus, the larger pavilion built prior to that holds many more vendors.
These are all ways that state and local programs are working to combat hunger right here at home.
For more information about food assistance programs you can call Bowling Park Food Pantry (270) 432-7204, Community Action of Southern Kentucky (270) 432-4006, Kentucky CHFS (270) 432-2721, or Metcalfe County Health Dept. 270-432-3214.