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AARP and Jeff Gordon Need You

Glendora Greenway often went to bed hungry as a child. Now 59, she doesn’t want anyone in her community to experience that feeling. Greenway helps manage the “Feed the Need” program that distributes food from a Memphis food bank to more than 1,600 Dyer County families each month.

“We have very young people coming through with babies; others so old they can’t get through the line by themselves,” Greenway said. “And we have a lot of middle-aged people right now because of the factories that have closed.”

The same is true all over the country as families hit hard by the economic downturn struggle to feed their families and older Americans make difficult choices between food and medicine. Of the 51 million Americans who face the threat of hunger, nearly 6 million are over age 60.

That is why AARP and the AARP Foundation joined with four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Jeff Gordon and team owner Rick Hendrick on a national Drive to End Hunger.

Tennesseans can get their first in-person glimpse of the Drive to End Hunger logo on Gordon’s car at the Food City 250 in Bristol this August. We hope that AARP members and volunteers from all over the region will help us raise money and hunger awareness at race week events.

In the meantime, Tennesseans like Greenway are addressing hunger in their communities. On March 4-6, AARP volunteers in Knoxville collected donations for Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee at the Women’s Today Expo sponsored by the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

One in five East Tennesseans go hungry each night, said food bank Executive Director Elaine Streno.

“One of the most heart wrenching calls we received came from a mother of three children who was embarrassed to be asking for food,” Streno said. “Her quote was ‘I am so sorry to make this call. I have been a donor to Second Harvest for many years. Now, unfortunately, I have to come to you for food for my family.’”

In Memphis, listed last year as the “hunger capital” of the U.S., AARP and other organizations helped collect 4,330 pounds of food at the National Civil Rights Museum on Martin Luther King Day.

Tennessee ranks No. 4 of the top 15 states with the highest rates of food hardships, according to the Food, Research and Action Center. And with the effects of the recession lingering, food banks and other programs that feed families and seniors are struggling.

According to the Meals on Wheels Association of America – an umbrella group representing 5,000 senior nutrition programs across the country – the number of older Americans at risk of hunger rose by about 20 percent between 2001 and 2007.

“We can’t stand by and do nothing,” said AARP Tennessee State Director Rebecca Kelly. “We hope to build on the tremendous efforts of AARP members and others to make sure that our families and neighbors don’t go hungry. In a state with so many resources and caring people, hunger just isn’t acceptable.”

Learn more online at Drive to End Hunger.

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