Table Talk: Commissioner of Agriculture's New Hunger Initiative Transforms the Narrative on Food Insecurity

By Lorran Hart Ferguson

According to a Feeding America study, seventeen percent of residents—734,310 people, including 222,380 children—are food insecure in Kentucky.[i] The United States Department of Agriculture defines an individual’s status as “food insecure” as lacking a sufficient amount of food to lead a healthy and active lifestyle.[ii] In a new initiative, Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles has started a first-of-its-kind program that will seek to battle food insecurity by compiling a task force of diverse parties to study both the causes and possible solutions to the issue. [iii]

Commissioner Quarles, a graduate of the University of Kentucky College of Law, launched the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Hunger Initiative on June 2, 2016. The effort brings together many diverse groups to jointly battle the issue of food insecurity in Kentucky. These groups include farmers, government entities, churches, and community leaders, all of which bring unique skills and viewpoints to the table.[iv] Task force members include representatives from the UK College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment, the Kentucky Farm Bureau, and the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy, among several others. [v]

The conclusions reached through “the research and data driven” task force conversations will hopefully make great impacts on how hunger is understood and combated in Kentucky.[vi] Data from these discussions could influence future relevant legislation, and will hopefully lead to a decrease in hunger statewide. The Hunger Initiative’s website lists three goals in the fight against hunger: “1) Build and expand collaborative partnerships between the public and private sectors that will minimize hunger in Kentucky, 2) Strengthen Kentucky’s food-distribution infrastructure to enable farmers to better serve the needs of Kentuckians, 3) Increase education and public awareness of hunger that affects Kentuckians of all ages.”[vii]

As a part of the initiative, ten regional meetings of the task force will be held throughout the state.[viii] The first, held on June 21, 2016, involved a presentation from Freestore Foodbank.[ix] In a press release from the first regional meeting, the Department of Agriculture listed the objectives of the task force as: “to study the sources of hunger, identify the unique issues that affected different regions of the Commonwealth, and take an inventory of resources that can be brought to bear against the hunger problem in Kentucky.”[x] The remaining nine meetings will occur in the future and will further focus on the discussion around hunger and food insecurity in Kentucky. 



[i] Kentucky Association of Food Banks, Hunger Study Finds Food Security Levels Remain Historically High, (last visited July 21, 2016).

[ii] United States Department of Agriculture, Household Food Insecurity in the United States in 2014, (last visited July 21, 2016).

[iii] Kentucky Department of Agriculture Hunger Initiative, Welcome, /#Home, (last visited July 21, 2016).

[iv] Kentucky Farm Bureau, KDA Hunger Initiative – Commissioner Ryan Quarles, Youtube (Jun. 2, 2016),

[v] Kentucky Department of Agriculture Hunger Initiative, Members, (last visited July 21, 2016).

[vi] Kentucky Farm Bureau, supra note iv.

[vii] Kentucky Department of Agriculture Hunger Initiative, Goals,, (last visited July 21, 2016).

[viii] Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Report on food insecurity in Northern Kentucky given at first regional hunger meeting,, (last visited July 21, 2016).

[ix] Id.

[x] Id.