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Jo Ann Jenkins Iowa Hunger Summit Prepared Remarks

Prepared Remarks

Coinciding with the United Nations World Food Day, the Iowa Hunger Summit is an annual event that gathers leaders from across Iowa representing community organizations, business and industry, state and local government, social agencies, churches and religious communities, schools and universities, and other individuals and groups that lead or participate in projects to confront hunger.  The World Food Prize Foundation established the Iowa Hunger Summit as a means to celebrate Iowa’s great successes in fighting hunger and poverty and to unite in further action against both.


Read Ms. Jenkins prepared remarks below.

First, we need to look for points where hunger and other issues intersect—and then build out from that common ground.  Health is one compelling example.  Many health care providers can be a front line to detect older adult hunger and refer food insecure adults to relevant services.  One idea to consider here is mainstreaming food security screening for income vulnerable older adults or those who have diabetes or are in generally poor health.

Housing and transportation offer another key intersection with the work to combat older adult hunger.  The increased risk of hunger for older adults who are alone and those with disabilities or limited mobility underscores the importance of age-friendly measures in housing and transportation that enable older adults to get around more easily.   

In a broader sense, the entire issue of isolation—which is a priority at AARP Foundation—is an area where we can all strengthen links to the anti-hunger effort. 

It is a sad irony that even as the world has become more interconnected, people 50+ often feel disconnected.  Research suggests that up to 17 percent of Americans 50+ suffer from isolation.   The problem can start when they leave the workforce…or suffer an injury or health problem that limits their mobility…or they lose their spouse or family and friends. 

Ultimately, solutions to the problem of isolation will come from a range of disciplines—including sociology, psychology, social work, epidemiology/public health, gerontology, social neuroscience, medicine, public policy and urban planning.  That gives us a wide array of well-informed potential allies. 

Another point of intersection we ought to focus on is employment.  Unemployed older adults are likely to be eligible for SNAP benefits in addition to unemployment benefits, and that makes multi benefits screening a useful approach.  Sharing eligibility data across benefit programs will support multi benefits enrollment.  

So one approach to alliance building is to identify points of intersection and make them a starting line for joint efforts.  At the same time, there is another approach that we at AARP Foundation have also found helpful—and that is to look for unconventional alliances. 

Two years ago, AARP Foundation and AARP began an unusual collaboration with Hendrick Motorsports and the superstar NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon—the first-ever cause-related primary sponsorship of a major race car team.    With this sponsorship, Jeff Gordon is behind the wheel of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet for 22 races a year. 
Together we are building awareness of the tragedy of senior hunger among NASCAR’s 75 million fans—and we are raising substantial funds to fight the problem.

So far, our collaboration has driven corporate and individual donor commitments with an expected value of more than $17 million to this cause, which we call Drive to End Hunger.  One hundred percent of that money goes to the fight against older adult hunger. 

Through our joint involvement at NASCAR races and other AARP and AARP Foundation hunger relief efforts, we have helped to provide almost 15 million meals to local hunger relief organizations, including food banks and home-delivered meal service providers. 

This unconventional alliance reminds us at AARP Foundation to look for collaboration in unexpected places. 

Widening the circle of allies is important.  So is widening the base of problem solvers. 


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