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AARP, NASCAR in "Sprint" to End Hunger

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 By Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY, Contact
August 31, 2011

FRANKFORT, Ky. - September is Hunger Action Month, but the "Drive to End Hunger" has been in high gear for months. Four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon has suited up for AARP to help raise awareness and dollars for food banks.

Gordon has decked out his trademark No. 24 race car with the logo for AARP's anti-hunger campaign.

Scott Wegenast, associate state director of AARP Kentucky, notes how the recession has affected Kentuckians, especially those age 50 and older.

"AARP launched a 'Drive to End Hunger' several months ago. And, in Kentucky, almost 6 percent of our seniors are at risk of hunger every day."

Contributions help the Meals on Wheels program and local food banks such as Feeding America, Kentucky's Heartland in Elizabethtown, a regional food bank which serves more than 125,000 people in 42 counties, according to development director Tami Delaney.

"The majority of the individuals that attend our local food distributions on a monthly basis would be your seniors, who are just trying to supplement their monthly income, and also people with disabilities."

The food pantry saw a 30 percent increase in need when the recession began three years ago, Delaney says, and the numbers haven't tapered off.

"I would love to tell you that the need isn't as great as it once was, but the truth is that the lines when we give out food at a local distribution, they're still long. And, they're still seeing new faces and new situations."

The Drive to End Hunger campaign is necessary because, Wegenast says, for older adults the need is great.

"We're providing short-term support for people in need. We're increasing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program enrollment for qualified individuals. And, we're developing sustainable solutions to hunger."

AARP says Kentucky ranks 18th in the nation for food insecurity among seniors. Nationwide, nearly 9 million Americans age 50 and older face hunger risks, according to new research commissioned by the AARP Foundation, and those numbers have spiked significantly in the sluggish economy.

The Drive to End Hunger will be featured on Gordon's race car through 2013. More information about the campaign is online at drivetoendhunger.com.

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