In many ways, the food systems of Kentucky are failing to meet the needs of our communities. Hunger is prevalent in Kentucky, with 575,300 residents reported as being food insecure. This hunger is inherently related to one’s ability to afford to purchase enough food. Since 2014, Kentucky Double Dollars (KDD), administered by Community Farm Alliance (CFA), has been an important strategy for supporting local food systems while increasing the accessibility and affordability of Kentucky-grown foods for Kentucky families utilizing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Women, Infants, and Children Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (WICFMNP), and the Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP). KDD provides eligible shoppers with a $1-for-$1 match of federal nutrition benefits at 63 participating farmers markets, community markets, and retail outlets. Those match funds are used by participants to purchase Kentucky-grown fresh fruits and vegetables.
KDD also provides significant economic support for Kentucky’s farmers and communities. From 2017 to 2022, over $900,000 in Kentucky Double Dollars leveraged an additional $900,000 in federal funds, putting nearly $2 million in Kentucky farmers’ pockets and creating over $3.1M in economic impact for Kentucky communities. Of farmers surveyed who accepted KDD, 76% agreed that participation in KDD increased farm income overall, 50% indicated that they increased the number and type of products offered at the markets, and 36% of farmers increased employment due to the KDD program. In short, KDD had diverse, positive and far-reaching impacts on farmers and the communities they live in.
An unrecognized aspect of this effort has been the development of food system infrastructure—both physical and human—that has grown around KDD. This infrastructure has contributed significantly to the resiliency of Kentucky’s local food system and played an enormous role in getting food to residents during times of upheaval. During the pandemic, CFA, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, and numerous other food and farm support organizations were able to quickly provide farmers markets with additional resources and technical assistance that enabled many Kentucky farmers markets to not only remain open during the height of the pandemic but also created a safe place for shoppers.
Additionally, immediately following the summer 2022 eastern Kentucky flooding, support organizations leaned upon this infrastructure to coordinate efforts and funding streams in order to launch “free markets” in four of the counties most impacted by flooding. The free markets were the result of intentional and strategic coordination of agricultural support organizations, institutes of higher education, local farmers, and private funders. The reason that these markets were able to make such a meaningful impact so quickly was because of the existing infrastructure and networks established well before the natural disaster occurred. The free markets provide an exceptional look into the potential for community food systems to exhibit resiliency in the face of adversity.
Though Community Farm Alliance administers KDD, the Program is the collaboration of many organizations. Besides participating outlets, over two dozen organizations (including NGOs, state agencies, and other food system stakeholders) make up the KDD Advisory Council, which provides guidance on improving the KDD program. Funding for KDD has also been diversified with almost a dozen federal, state, and private philanthropic organizations’ contributions to KDD over the past eight years, including the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, the Blue Grass Community Foundation, the Foundation for Appalachian KY, the Greater Clark Community Foundation, WellCare, BB&T/Truist, Passport-Molina, the Education Foundation of America, and Grow Appalachia among others. The program’s two largest and most committed funders have been the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund (KADF) and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
For healthy food access programs like KDD, sustainability is an ongoing challenge. For eight years CFA has successfully fundraised to meet the needs from new and existing market outlets that participate in KDD. However, USDA NIFA chose not to fund Community Farm Alliance’s 2022 GusNIP application to support KDD SNAP Fruits and Vegetables. With only $38.7 million available, only eight GusNIP Nutrition Incentive projects were funded for 2023 and KDD was not among the selected projects.
So, what’s next? CFA’s goal for 2023 is to continue all of the KDD incentives with non-federal funding. CFA has been consulting with NIFA to craft a successful GusNIP application in March 2023, but that funding would not arrive in time to help Kentucky farmers and those in need during the 2023 season. This creates a challenge and an opportunity—the challenge for Kentucky to continue to make healthy food accessible, to continue to support Kentucky’s farmers who depend on KDD-related sales to support their families, and the opportunity for nonfederal funders both large and small to fill the gap and support healthy food access and the food systems of Kentucky.
Executive Director, Community Farm Alliance
To learn more about Kentucky Double Dollars: https://kentuckydoubledollars.org
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