AUBURN, AL (WTVM) - The Auburn University Athletics Department goes on the offense against hunger. Through a partnership with the End Child Hunger in Alabama (ECHA) campaign, spearheaded by Auburn's Hunger Solutions Institute, Auburn Athletics is embracing hunger as its priority initiative.
Athletics Director Jay Jacobs joined ECHA spokesperson Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey and pro-golfer Jason Dufner to announce the new partnership Friday during a visit to a summer feeding site at the Boys and Girls Club in Auburn.
"We are excited to announce our partnership with End Child Hunger in Alabama, which is a cause we can all get behind. Auburn people believe in the human touch, and there is no better way for our student-athletes to make a difference than this life-changing initiative," said Jacobs.
"Since ECHA launched in April 2013, the support and momentum to fight child hunger has grown tremendously. It's amazing what can be accomplished in a short period of time -- Auburn Athletics knows that first-hand. With the support of coaches and student-athletes, I'm confident we'll make even further advances in the hunger offensive," added Ivey.
"As an athlete, I feel like I have the opportunity to make an impact on and off the golf course. Kids living in our own communities are hungry, but we can do something about it. That's why Amanda and I got involved with Blessings in a Backpack which provides snacks for kids to take home with them on the weekends during the school year. I'm proud to see my alma mater get involved in this important effort and wholeheartedly support it," Dufner said.
The Auburn Athletics' hunger initiative slogan, "Ever to Feed; Never to Need," is a play on a line in the Auburn fight song, "Ever to Conquer; Never to Yield."
"Our goal is to help raise awareness, raise money and help with food distribution. This is a wonderful community service opportunity for our student-athletes that will be our priority initiative," Jacobs added.
Nearly 16 million children in America experience some kind of food insecurity. Of the more than 1 million children in Alabama, nearly one-third live in homes that experience food hardships.
"Having Auburn Athletics become a fully engaged partner in ECHA is a dynamic catalyst that will take our initiative to the next level. Together we will work to the best of our ability to ensure that all of our State's children and youth have access to the nutritious foods that are required for healthy growth and development and productive citizenship," said Harriet Giles, managing director of the Hunger Solutions Institute and chairman of the ECHA Task Force.
In addition to the partnership, Ivey also announced the great success of summer feeding programs in Alabama. ECHA exceeded its goal to increase the number of summer feeding sites and sponsors by 10 percent in 2014.
"When school is out for the summer, many students lose a reliable source of food at mealtimes. Working with the Department of Education, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Wal-Mart Foundation, local charitable organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, and many other stakeholders, Alabama added 274 summer feeding sites in 2014 and enrolled 40,000 more students for summer lunch," she said. "But we are just getting started."
The goal of ECHA is to move Alabama from the bottom one-third of states with the greatest child food insecurity into the top one-quarter of states with the greatest child food security by 2020.