Commissioner of Agriculture Dr. Ryan Quarles joined Father Jim Sichko, a Catholic priest and a Papal Missionary of Mercy commissioned by Pope Francis, at God’s Pantry Food Bank in Lexington earlier today for a donation of 1,000 pounds of ground beef to hungry Kentuckians.

Earlier this year, Father Sichko stepped in to help a Texas family with nine children after their father suddenly passed away from a heart attack. Father Sichko paid for the funeral and bought a couple of steers  at a livestock auction. He had one of the steers processed for the family, while the other made a “Miles of Mercy” trip to God’s Pantry Food Bank in Lexington.

“I was honored to be asked by Father Jim to join him for this incredible story,” Commissioner Quarles said. “Many people across Kentucky, and indeed across the world, have seen how Father Jim’s example helps spread the message of mercy that Jesus gave his disciples and our world. Donations like this one fit in perfectly with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Hunger Initiative. I thank him for letting me join him today.”

Thanks to a generous donation by Delta Airlines to Father Sichko’s mission, the ground beef, and the nine children were flown to Lexington free of charge. After the donation, Commissioner Quarles took the children and the priest on a tour of his family farm and then had lunch with them at Bluegrass Stockyards in Lexington.

“It was an overwhelming gesture of kindness and hospitality from Commissioner Quarles to spend pretty much all day with myself and the Hughes Family on their first ever visit to Kentucky,” Father Sichko said. “As farmers in Texas, the Hughes family understands the hard work and commitment of families in the Commonwealth and beyond when it comes to the importance of agriculture.”