When Joe Burrow stood up on stage accepting a Heisman Trophy, he shared his experience growing up in a community where many classmates and neighbors didn’t know where their next meal was going to come from. He shared the story of a county struggling with a nearly 20% rate of food insecurity. These remarks from the Louisiana State University quarterback prompted a remarkable outpouring of generosity, with gifts flooding into the Athens County Food Pantry based in Joe’s hometown. And the pantry, with an eye for making a lasting difference with these gifts, invested $350,000 to create the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund at FAO.
A Heisman Trophy acceptance speech that launched a movement to fight hunger in Southeast Ohio has become the mission of dedicated Cincinnati Bengals fans. Donations of all sizes from the Who Dey Nation have grown the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund to $1.3 million.
Bengals fans have embraced the need their quarterback spotlighted during that 2019 speech as a college player. With the establishment of the fund at the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO), Cincinnati and the world began supporting efforts to address hunger.
Fans have been creative and consistent in their contributions, often giving in the amounts of $9 for Burrow’s jersey number or $31 for the number of years it has been since the Bengals won a playoff game, a streak that Burrow and his teammates successfully ended with the current NFL football season.
It is thanks to these types of donations that the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund has grown to what it is today. Thousands of small gifts were matched by the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, creating an endowment that will provide more than $50,000 annually for the fight against hunger in Southeast Ohio.
“The Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund didn’t get to $1.3 million because a few donors gave staggering amounts,” said Cara Dingus Brook, FAO President and CEO. “We got here thanks to thousands of caring individuals giving what they can. The impact the Cincinnati Bengals community has made on hunger in Southeast Ohio humbles us. We’re grateful and inspired by the Who Dey Nation’s continued support. They are changing lives.”
In 2022, the Who Dey Nation will see the impact of their gifts reach even further to solve the root causes of hunger. The Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund is partnering with FAO’s I’m a Child of Appalachia® Fund to award hunger relief grants to other nonprofit organizations addressing the contributing factors of hunger in southeast Ohio.
The Athens County Food Pantry established and advises the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund. “We have long recognized that Joe’s remarks went beyond the issue of hunger,” said Athens County Food Pantry President Karin Bright. “In addition to addressing food insecurity, we will be using the funds to support projects that address the root causes of challenges of hunger, such as unemployment and underemployment, job training, education, a lack of transportation and other barriers.”
To mail your gift to the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund, c/o FAO, 35 Public Square, Nelsonville, OH 45764.
About the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio
The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO) is a regional community foundation serving the 32 counties of Appalachian Ohio. A 501(c)(3) public charity, the Foundation creates opportunities for Appalachian Ohio’s citizens and communities by inspiring and supporting philanthropy. For more information about FAO, visit www.AppalachianOhio.org and follow FAO on Facebook and Instagram.
About the Athens County Food Pantry
The Athens County Food Pantry, an all-volunteer nonprofit organization, is dedicated to providing supplemental and emergency food aid to eligible residents of Athens County, Ohio who find themselves in need. They have been serving the citizens of Athens County for over 35 years. For more information, visit www.AthensCountyFoodPantry.org or visit @AthensCountyFoodPantry on Facebook.