As part of AARP’s national Drive to End Hunger and its 2011 National Day of Service held Sept. 9, AARP Montana staff and volunteers spent the day working at the Helena Food Share pantry and warehouse.
See Also: AARP’s four-part online documentary series, “Hungry in America”
The effort comes as a new research report commissioned by the AARP Foundation, “Food Insecurity Among Older Adults”, found that more than nine percent of older Americans were at risk of hunger in 2009—a 79 percent increase since 2001.
The research, produced by James P. Ziliak of the University of Kentucky and Craig Gundersen of the University of Illinois, is the first of its kind to examine hunger risk among people age 50 to 59—the youngest of the baby boomers. Because they are typically too young for Social Security and too old to qualify for programs designed for families with children, this age group can be hit particularly hard in bad economic times.
Joy Bruck, AARP Montana State President says 58 million people across the nation face the threat of hunger daily, meaning they are forced to skip meals or buy poor-quality food. Hunger is also a growing problem in Montana, she adds, and that's why her group dedicated their day of service to fighting hunger. Bruck says 14.8 percent of Montana residents report not having had enough money to buy food at some point in the preceding 12 months.
"Drive to End Hunger" is a multi-year effort by AARP and AARP Foundation to raise awareness and address the issue of older adult hunger. The campaign is targeting hunger among older adults with donations, food drives, and volunteer recruitment. To date, more than $14 million has been raised.
Although Bruck points out that the problem affects people of all ages. "Food insecurity hits multiple generations. People that you don't really suspect are having to think about what they're going to buy for dinner that night, or that they might go to bed hungry."
Other hunger-related opportunities are available throughout the state. Volunteers can do their own food drives by working with their local food pantry or volunteer with Meals on Wheels to deliver hot meals to older residents in their community. Many AARP chapter members throughout the state are involved in hunger-related activities.
The AARP Day of Service was established following the attacks of 9/11 to foster volunteerism. Each September, AARP encourages its employees, members and others around the country to volunteer a day in their communities. Thousands of AARP staff and volunteers across the nation have been involved in past efforts.
“It's a way to remember those who died as a result of the attacks and to honor those who gave selflessly in the aftermath of the tragedy in 2001,” said Bruck.