The idea ignited during a meal packaging event at AARP's headquarters last fall. As 25 employees lined up in the cafeteria to package 900 meals in an hour, everyone began to imagine something greater. "It felt really good to know I was helping to make a difference," said Allison Beatty, an Executive Secretary at AARP. Beatty, who along with her colleagues packaged Macaroni & Cheese, said it was a significant feat. "It was very hands on and quite remarkable." The packaged food was later taken to the Capital Area Food Bank located in Washington D.C.
"That to me was the defining moment," said Floyd Hammer, co-founder of Outreach Inc., a charitable organization that organized the event. "There was so much enthusiasm."
Now the AARP Foundation has set a new goal: to package one million meals in two days.
The event will take place during Speed Street, May 24-25 at the Charlotte Convention Center. The meals will be distributed to several North Carolina food banks as part of the Drive to End Hunger campaign, which focuses on raising awareness and addressing the issue of older adult hunger in the United States.
Meeting this challenging goal will require thousands of volunteers to team up in two hour shifts to package thousands of meals every hour. The results could be powerful.
A recent AARP Foundation study found that 9 million adults 50 and older face the risk of hunger. Many are forced to choose between eating and buying medication. In North Carolina, 9 percent of older adults are at risk of hunger, making it #7 in the United States for food insecurity among 50+ adults.
A mega meal packaging event in Florida last year made a significant difference in the community, said Hammer. The food bank "was pleased, which is an understatement, to receive the meals," he said, "and they were distributed in a very short period of time." (Florida is ranked 22 for food insecurity among older adults.)
Through its innovative meal packaging program, Outreach is teaming up with AARP to coordinate the Charlotte 1 Million event. Initially, Floyd and his wife, Kathy, founded Outreach to address the famine, suffering and grinding poverty they witnessed while traveling in Tanzania, Africa, in 2004. Since that time, Outreach has partnered with organizations to package and deliver nearly 200 million meals to hungry in the United States and around the world. In many communities, meal packaging has become highly anticipated events, with a festival-like atmosphere.
Now's your chance to join this effort. Help the Drive to End Hunger team meet its goal of packaging one million meals and make a huge difference in the lives of hungry older adults in North Carolina. You could be packaging alongside Jeff Gordon, four-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion and driver of the #24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, and sports broadcaster James "JB" Brown who have all committed to this important cause.
Learn more about exciting, rewarding and energizing opportunities to give back and connect with your community and world at Drive to End Hunger and Create the Good. To set up a meal packaging event in your own community visit www.OutreachProgram.org.
Photo credit by: Nolan Collaborative of Chicago