By Sara Freeland
NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon came to the University of Georgia Thursday to join the Campus Kitchen at UGA and the Athens Community Council on Aging to help feed Athens grandparents raising grandchildren.
As part of AARP’s and AARP Foundation’s Drive to End Hunger, Gordon helped student volunteers from Campus Kitchen at UGA pack meals and deliver food to two families in the Athens Community Council on Aging’s Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program.
“I’m blown away by the talent and commitment of CKUGA’s student volunteers,” said Gordon, winner of the 2012 Heisman Humanitarian Award. “They have the brains, heart and hustle to make a difference here on campus and beyond.”
Later, Gordon visited with coach Mark Richt and UGA’s football team to discuss the importance of being a “true champion” and contributing to others away from sports.
“Coach Richt has his players, some of whom have volunteered to help the fight against older adult hunger, focused on winning the right way,” said Gordon. “To be a true champion, it takes more than just on-the-field results.”
Campus Kitchen at UGA is part of The Campus Kitchens Project, a national network of 33 universities and schools that work together to combat hunger in their own communities. In 2013, AARP Foundation issued a grant to The Campus Kitchens Project to support the work of CKUGA and nine other Campus Kitchens that focus on addressing older adult hunger.
Campus Kitchen at UGA is run by students and was established in 2010 through UGA’s Office of Service-Learning. Together with local partners including the ACCA and the Talmage Terrace Senior Living Community, CKUGA provides healthy meals for Athenians who struggle with hunger and isolation, using fresh produce and collected excess food that would otherwise be wasted. CKUGA works with UGArden, an organic student demonstration garden, to grow its own vegetables and works with the ACCA to offer a weekly farmers market and healthy cooking classes for local seniors.
Nearly 9 million Americans age 50 and older face the threat of hunger. AARP and AARP Foundation created Drive to End Hunger in 2010 to raise awareness about the problem of hunger among struggling Americans 50-plus and to develop long-term, sustainable solutions to the problem. In 2011, AARP became NASCAR’s first cause-based primary sponsor with Drive to End Hunger featured on the No. 24 Chevrolet driven by Gordon. The effort raises the visibility of hunger while collecting cash and food donations in NASCAR race markets across the country.
“The Campus Kitchens Project embodies the exact kind of work we wanted to support with Drive to End Hunger,” said AARP Foundation President Jo Ann Jenkins. “By engaging students to help collect, cook and deliver meals to older Americans in need, Campus Kitchens are not only helping put food on the table in the short term, but they’re also nurturing a new group of lifelong leaders who apply that passion and vision to helping others in their home communities after they graduate.”
“We are honored to partner with the AARP Foundation to address the growing problem of senior hunger,” said Laura Toscano, director of The Campus Kitchens Project. “This investment has empowered our Campus Kitchens, like the Campus Kitchen at UGA, to serve over 30,000 meals to older adults so far this year, and even more importantly, to work with our students to develop engaging programs that will address the underlying root causes of senior hunger, such as isolation, reduced mobility and lack of access to healthy food.”