Before I answer that riddle let me broach a subject that may at first sound unexciting, not that important and even the proverbial “not my problem”!
The subject is hunger. I’m not talking about ‘hunger to learn”, or hunger to get that new car or home or vacation. I’m talking about real hunger….like in a need to eat something. In Southwest Florida we have an extremely high percentage of elderly people. We also unfortunately, have a high percentage that is food insecure….they run short of food each month because of their low fixed income status. These elderly people tend to keep it to themselves. They’ll figure out a way to get by….to hang on till their next Social Security check.
Senior Friendship Centers or Friendship Centers as they are now called began seeing this unfortunate trend 4-5 years ago. In cooperation with a good number of area partners a Hunger Summit was convened at FGCU to discuss this growing trend. From the summit the Senior Hunger Task Force was formed in Lee County to bring awareness, education and resources toward this growing epidemic.
Friendship Centers launched the Friendship Food Bag Program; a program designed to deliver a once a month bag of balanced food stuffs to an identified senior with a need. The question quickly arose who will deliver these Friendship Food Bags?
We only needed 12 groups delivering once per month. My mind works in strange ways and I came up with the Big Ten Conference of Schools which then consisted of 12 Universities….I know Big 10, then 12….and now it’s 14! Notre Dame (not Big 10, but my alma mater) did the first Friendship Food Bag delivery. Well, Iowa, Purdue, Michigan State immediately jumped in with their local alumni clubs providing the volunteers.
But then, through the Task Force’s publicity, other local organizations/businesses began volunteering for open months as well. Then, this winter Iowa and Notre Dame found themselves matched in a basketball game (Big Ten – ACC Challenge), so of course the Friendship Food Challenge was quickly proposed.
Each school would bring donated food to the Sports Bar, watch the game and the winner would retain the coveted scale used to weigh the food as the trophy. Guess what… Iowa brought the most food (over 450 lbs.) (Notre Dame 250 lbs.), won the basketball game (Iowa 98 ND 93) and the trophy. But guess who really won… area seniors who gained over 700+ lbs. of food and senior hunger was delayed.
Isn’t it amazing what you can do with just a little imagination!
So what do you get when you cross Friendship with Alumni and Throw in Senior Hunger? Well of course you get Alumni Clubs contributing to their community by assembling food bags with food they either donated, purchased or received from local partners like the Harry Chapin Food Bank, Comfort Keepers and the United Way AND deliveries to Hungry Seniors identified and coordinated with Friendship!
About John Counsell
John Counsell is Vice-Chairman for the Friendship Centers' Board of Governors. He has been involved with the Friendship Centers for many years and is in his third term on the Board.