University’s use of farm products

When Kentucky Proud was designated as the state’s official farm marketing program in 2008, the initiative was immediately recognized as a way to promote products grown and raised in Kentucky. Today, as a registered trademark, Kentucky Proud remains a point of pride for many who value agriculture’s connection to our state’s economy and culture.

Unfortunately, that approach to promoting Kentucky farm products has not taken hold with the University of Kentucky’s efforts to put more local foods in its campus cafeterias.

A story by Louisville Courier-Journal reporter Jere Downs explains why it is rare for a UK student to find much food in the cafeteria that actually came from a Kentucky farm. The story — which looked at the university’s $2.4 million in Kentucky Proud or so-called local food purchases for cafeterias in 2014 — concludes that 74 percent of those purchases “provided no benefit to Kentucky farmers.”

This happens because UK defines local food mostly through geography rather than farm production. Local food at UK means anything purchased from a business in Fayette or neighboring counties. It doesn’t have to come from a farm.

That’s not good for Kentucky farmers who would like to see more of their meats, grains and vegetables on a UK student’s lunch plate — but it is great for Coca-Cola, which is bottled close enough to the UK campus to qualify as a local food.

“Only a handful of Kentucky farmers supplied UK kitchens last year,” Downs wrote. “Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese, Marksbury Farm meats, Grateful Greens lettuces and Courtney Farm vegetables were part of a half-million-dollar purchase — about 5 percent — of the total $10.6 campus food budget, the (UK) report said.”

It’s a shame that UK, home to the highly respected College of Agriculture, can’t do a better job incorporating our state’s bounty into the campus food budget.

Other foods classified as local that don’t have a direct connection to Kentucky-grown ingredients were part of the report. These included Old Kentucky Chocolates, John Conti Coffee and Ale8 soda. Yes, these are Kentucky products, and we can be proud they are produced in our state. But it is misleading to call them local foods.

UK Dining needs to re-examine its commitment to Kentucky farm products in the cafeteria. To suggest that the $1.1 million Coca-Cola purchase fits into a local food plan is not something Kentucky farmers can swallow.

Kentucky New Era

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