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Drive to End Hunger Roars into 2012 at Daytona Feb. 26

Four-time Sprint Cup Champion Jeff Gordon finished the 2011 NASCAR race season with 17 top ten finishes and 3 wins, bringing him to a total of 85 career victories – the 3rd most in NASCAR history.

See Also: Poverty and Aging: AARP Resources on Hunger and Food Insecurity

But Gordon didn’t just blaze by his competitors on the track last season; he also contributed to feeding millions of America's seniors facing the threat of food insecurity through the Drive to End Hunger. That, together with his other charitable activities, earned Gordon an award as NASCAR Illustrated’s Person of the Year for 2011.

In just the last two years, the number of older Americans facing the risk of hunger has increased by half, and in Florida, about 7 percent of those 50 or older are struggling to get enough to eat. In Florida alone, this means that tens of thousands of our neighbors are forced to choose between getting enough to eat, buying the prescription drugs they need to stay alive, or paying the rent.”

The Drive to End Hunger is a national AARP initiative that aims to educate and engage NASCAR fans and sponsors, as well as AARP and AARP Foundation volunteers to help raise awareness and address the issue of senior hunger through community service and fund raising, along with research about the causes and consequences of hunger in older Americans and an innovative national grant program that provides resources to address the problem at the local level.

Last year’s Florida contributions to The Drive to End Hunger helped to provide meals for nearly 150,000 Floridians struggling with hunger. At the 2011 Daytona 500 more than 10,000 pounds of food was donated directly to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, through a food drive sponsored by area Winn-Dixie stores.

Participants also donated more than $12,000 towards local and national efforts to end senior food insecurity. Together, these efforts provided more than 77,000 meals to Floridians struggling with hunger.

In addition to the food drive and donations, volunteers loaded more than seven tons of un-served food from the Daytona International Speedway following the race and delivered the food items to the food bank. The donation included breads, produce and other food items that helped feed thousands of Floridians.

When the Drive to End Hunger came to the Miami-Homestead Speedway in November for the Ford Championship 400, the last race of the 2011 NASCAR season, AARP presented a $15,000 check to its community partner Feeding South Florida, at a mobile food pantry event that distributed boxes of fresh produce to hundreds of hard-pressed South Florida residents.

During the race, South Florida fans donated $11,000 at the Drive to End Hunger pavilion; enough to provide nearly 10,000 meals to hungry seniors.

To date, the Drive to End Hunger has raised nearly 4 million meals to Americans struggling with hunger issues across the country.

The 2012 Drive to End Hunger kicks off at the 54th annual Daytona 500, which will run on Feb. 26 at the Daytona International Speedway.

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