by Roger Johnson, President

This article was originally published in the March 2013 issue of Rooftops, the newsletter of the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger. Read it in its original form here.

Senior hunger is a problem that doesn’t discriminate. Whether in the middle of a metropolitan food desert, or on the outskirts of the tiniest rural community, millions of American seniors are at risk of hunger. In recent years, the rate of risk of senior hunger has grown higher in non-metropolitan areas than metropolitan areas, contrary to what some may believe. Seniors in rural areas face the challenge of isolation – many of them “age in place,” miles from the nearest grocery store, family member or volunteer willing to deliver them a meal.

I find that the great irony of rural senior hunger is that many of those hungry seniors were once farmers who worked their entire lives to grow and raise food for the country and the world, and who are now struggling to put food on their own tables. The National Foundation to End Senior Hunger is dedicated to solving these challenges and ending hunger for rural and urban seniors alike, but it also falls upon America’s farmers and ranchers to do their part to feed the hungry in their own communities, both directly and indirectly.

National Farmers Union’s founding members came together in 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities, and our mission remains the same now as it was then. NFU believes that good opportunities in production agriculture are the foundation of strong farm and ranch families, and strong farm and ranch families are the basis for thriving rural communities. Vibrant rural communities, in turn, are vital to the health, security and economic well-being of our entire national economy.

NFU’s focus on food, the families who raise it, and the consumers who eat it, has naturally led to our concern for the world’s hungry. We played an integral role in the formation of CARE in 1945 to help distribute “CARE packages” to World War II survivors in need across the globe. CARE has grown into a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty broadly. And NFU has recognized the special needs of rural seniors in founding Experience Works, an organization that has helped low-income seniors obtain training and find jobs in their local communities since 1965.

Today, NFU is taking action against hunger and poverty in other ways.  For example, NFU just completed its second annual campaign in partnership with Feeding America.  With the help of a generous match by Howard G. Buffett, our members have raised more than $250,000 for food banks in their local communities.

Consumers must be our partners in this effort. More than ever before, consumers are interested in where their food comes from, how it is grown, and who has grown it. If you ask consumers engaged in the food community if they “know their farmer,” many of them will often say yes, they do!  Family farmers and ranchers across the country have pledged to meet the vast challenge of providing American consumers with the safest, most abundant food supply in the world. In return, consumers must pledge to stand alongside these farmers to do their part to eliminate hunger in their rural communities.

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