Tue 27 Mar 2012
Nearly nine million Americans aged 50+ face the threat of hunger, often being forced to choose between eating and paying for other essentials like shelter and medicine. Sadly, their ranks have grown, soaring nearly 80 percent between 2001 and 2009. Helping people prevent hunger and its serious health consequences is one of the most formidable public health challenges facing the United States today.
Disturbing as the overall statistics and the individual stories of hunger are, this is a problem we can solve, together.
At AARP Foundation, a charitable affiliate of AARP, we’re working with people 50+ to help them win back opportunity—regain a foothold—recover their confidence—and ultimately, move from a state of vulnerability to stability.
That’s why AARP Foundation and AARP launched Drive to End Hunger, a multiyear, multipronged effort to tackle the problem of senior hunger. We are raising awareness, raising funds, creating new networks of support, and developing long-term sustainable solutions to the hunger problem.
So far, we have provided almost six million meals—and we’ve driven corporate and individual donor commitments with an expected value of more than $15 million.
This is a nationwide initiative with a strong community focus. We’re working side by side with other organizations in order to reach as many people as possible and make our resources go further. With this collaborative approach, we’re achieving a multiplier effect for much needed programs and services.
The problem of hunger among older Americans is often overlooked. One reason is the millions of men and women 50+ at daily risk of hunger are often hard to find.
In many cases, they’re embarrassed. They’ve been dealt a tough blow by the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Having spent their lives helping others, now they need help themselves to get back on track.
That’s where Drive to End Hunger comes in, with interventions that not only raise awareness but also provide short and long-term solutions to the problem of older adult hunger, including:
- Creating an innovative, cause-related collaboration with four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon and team owner Rick Hendrick of Hendrick Motorsports to build knowledge and support for ending hunger among older Americans. A racing champion with a remarkable record of philanthropy, Jeff Gordon is driving the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, sponsored by AARP, in 22 NASCAR races this year.
- Sponsoring research, including a report issued last year that increased public awareness of those facing the threat of hunger, “Food Insecurity among Older Adults.”
- Working with national and community hunger relief organizations to enhance and supplement food distribution networks to older people, including an online pilot that drives donations directly to anti-hunger groups.
- Helping older people at risk of hunger to enroll in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Only about one-third of older Americans who are eligible for SNAP are enrolled, compared to about two-thirds of those in other age groups.
- Providing hunger impact grants to nonprofit organizations to develop or expand solution-oriented programs at the community level that combat hunger among older people and can be replicated in other places across the country.
I hope you’ll go to www.drivetoendhunger.org to learn more about our work—and help us win the fight against senior hunger.
Written by: Jo Ann Jenkins, President, AARP Foundation