We are collaborating with AARP Foundation, AARP’s charitable affiliate, to help advance the Foundation’s cause of improving the lives of millions of older Americans who struggle to meet their basic needs for nutritious food, safe and affordable housing, adequate income, and personal connections. As part of our work together, InnoCentive and AARP Foundation have launched the AARP Foundation-InnoCentive Challenge Series, which is comprised of a dedicated Pavilion along with two new Challenges focused on food insecurity. We asked Jo Ann Jenkins, president of AARP Foundation, to chat with us about the Foundation, the collaboration and its goals, and the two new Challenges now open to Solvers on InnoCentive.com. [Ed note: A press release of the partnership and Challenge announcement can be found here.]
Hello Ms. Jenkins – we appreciate you taking the time to join us. First of all, can you tell us more about the AARP Foundation?
I’m delighted to. America has always been known as the land of opportunity. But for an alarming number of Americans age 50 and above, any opportunity feels distant right now, if not totally unobtainable. Uncertainty is the new normal – one in four workers has burned through their savings and many are living from paycheck to paycheck. They have worked hard, paid their taxes, and served their communities and country, but now they’re on the road to economic disaster. AARP Foundation helps struggling people 50+ to win back opportunity and move from vulnerability to stability.
According to the Foundation’s research, nearly 9 million American adults age 50 and older are at risk of hunger. How is the Foundation addressing this critical issue?
Working with AARP, we began Drive to End Hunger in 2011, a comprehensive, long-term national initiative with the goal of solving one of the most urgent and challenging issues of our time – hunger among older people. This initiative includes several key programs:
(1) Our cause-marketing work with NASCAR four-time Sprint Cup series winner Jeff Gordon and team owner Rick Hendrick of Hendrick Motorsports to raise awareness of hunger and raise funds to fight it. NASCAR fans are one of the most charitable and community-oriented group of sports fans in the U.S.
2) Educating and enrolling people age 60+ in SNAP (formerly known as food stamps). SNAP is the cornerstone of the federal nutrition programs. While overall program participation has increased with the economic downturn, senior participation in SNAP has remained chronically low with only 1 out of every 3 adults 60+ who are eligible for benefits actually receiving them.
SNAP is not simply a nutrition assistance program that allows recipients to purchase food for good health; it is also an economic support program. The average monthly benefit amount for seniors receiving SNAP is $119, or $1,400 a year. This benefit boosts the budgets of low-income seniors so they don’t have to make impossible choices between feeding themselves or getting their prescriptions filled. On average, SNAP benefits last far longer than an emergency food box (2.5 to 3 weeks vs. 2 days), and empower seniors to choose foods that meet their dietary requirements and cultural needs. Read more