Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, state Rep. Samara Heavrin, state Sen. Steve Meredith, and several of Grayson County’s elected officials were given a tour of the Grayson County Alliance last Friday to learn about the work that is being done to expand the facility and its services.

Heavrin, who organized the visit, said there are many hungry people in Grayson County, making the Alliance’s efforts all the more needed.

“They are truly a huge blessing,” she said.

According to Grayson County Alliance Executive Director Debbie Childress, 2020 was originally planned to be a year in which the Alliance celebrated its 20th anniversary, but officials had to shift gears after the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

Childress said that, since the outbreak of the coronavirus, the Alliance’s mantra has been “feed the people.”

“We’re super excited that we were equipped to do that without missing a beat,” she said.

Since January, the Grayson County Alliance has served 617 new families, some of whom have needed the Alliance’s services only once, some of whom have needed them consistently, and some of whom will never require them again, according to Childress.

“We just want to be consistent with the services we provide,” she said, adding that doing so is a “real community effort.”

The ultimate goal of the Alliance however is to provide a hand-up, as opposed to a hand out, so that people no longer require the services of the agency. To do so, officials are looking to expand their classes and social services, as well as their food bank services.

With that in mind, the Alliance is looking to renovate and expand its facility in the near future, but that has not stopped officials from concentrating on improvements in the here and now.

According to Quarles, food storage, particularly freezers and refrigerators, has been a challenge for food banks across the state of Kentucky, and officials agreed the Grayson County Alliance has not been free of this challenge.

However, Childress announced during last Friday’s tour that the Alliance recently received a $6,700 grant from the Kentucky Colonels with which it was able to purchase a new walk-in refrigeration unit from Vittitow Refrigeration for that exact grant amount.

Childress said this addition to the Alliance’s facility will enable it to keep more food products that it previously would have had to refuse and give them to local families in need.

Quarles said that, if 2020 has taught anything, it is that reinvention is necessary.

2020 has been “a year where, as a society, we’ve had to step back and look at how we treat those less fortunate than us,” he said, adding that, prior to the pandemic, Kentucky had an 18% food insecurity rate.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Quarles said, Kentucky has seen a 30% increase in people using food banks, and many of those people had never used one before.

“Help is here,” he said. “Food is available. There is no food shortage in America.”

At the conclusion of their tour, elected officials were shown how to fill Community Impact packages, which are gallon bags containing various items to satiate hunger for those in immediate need.

Childress said nothing in these bags has to be heated to be eaten, and everything is portable. They are intended, she said, not to enable the issue of food insecurity, but to alleviate an immediate stress. The bags also contain contact information for further assistance.

For more information about the Grayson County Alliance, visit gc-