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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.

Since we began Drive to End Hunger in 2010, we have been seeking solutions from a variety of sources, including local anti-hunger groups, state SNAP officials, and hunger researchers. 

But we need to go further.  That is why the Foundation is now working with the crowdsourcing web site, InnoCentive, to find innovative solutions to the hunger problem.   Innocentive is based on the idea that solutions to tough problems can come from anyone, anywhere.  The Foundation is collaborating with InnoCentive on two challenges to address older adult hunger, each with a prize of $10,000. 

One challenge solicits ideas for a long-term approach that would prevent or limit hunger in older adults from happening in the first place.  The second challenge seeks ideas on eliminating food deserts—usually low-income areas where residents have limited access to commercially sold nutritious food.  This includes many vulnerable older people who cannot travel long distances to grocery stores.  There are over 6,500 food deserts in our country—and 60 of them are in Iowa.  

The deadline for these challenges was about a month ago and we are now examining about 140 of the best proposals we received.  

We’ve looked today at what AARP Foundation is doing to build awareness, provide analysis, and find alliances and innovative solutions.  Now I’d like to turn to the fourth component of our anti-hunger efforts—taking action.

Some of that action revolves around our work with the NASCAR community. When we renewed our sponsorship of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger car earlier this month, Jeff Gordon said, “I got to see race fans reaching for their wallets, packing meals for local food banks, and texting donations to help millions of older Americans who face the threat of hunger every day….I can’t wait to see what we can do the next two years.”

One critical part of our efforts at Drive to End Hunger is helping older adults enroll in SNAP, or as it is called here, the Iowa Food Assistance Program. 

SNAP is one of the most effective anti-poverty programs in our country.  And SNAP benefits communities as well as individuals in need.  Every $1 in SNAP benefits expended generates $1.79 in local economic activity and contributes to the bottom line of farmers, food processors, and food retailers. 

Yet two-thirds of the older adults eligible for this program are not participating in it.  That is true in Iowa—and nationally.

What’s keeping people from taking part in SNAP?  After all, most of them supported it through their taxes for years. 

They may be too embarrassed to sign up.  They may be unaware of the program or mistakenly think they are not eligible.  They may believe incorrectly that if they enroll it takes benefits away from someone else.  Or perhaps they have hit a bureaucratic roadblock that has kept them from participating.

We are working to overcome these impressions and to inform and enroll seniors in SNAP through state pilot programs, including outreach into 20 targeted Iowa counties that have high percentages of food insecure older residents. 

To date, more than 50 AARP volunteers have volunteered to join with the Iowa Food Bank Association in order to enroll their fellow Iowans in these counties in the food assistance program. 


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Jo Ann Jenkins, AARP CEO

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