Donor Spotlight

Donor Spotlight

Jo Ellen Diehl Yeary | Generosity rooted in pride, remembrance, dedication to home

Learn more

News & Happenings

Joe Burrow Announces Fund to Support Hunger Relief in Southeast Ohio

Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund to Benefit Athens County Food Pantry

Nelsonville, OHThis morning on Good Morning America, Joe Burrow shared the news that through the generosity of many people coming together the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund has been created to support the Athens County Food Pantry and support hunger relief. Joe announced that he will be supporting the Fund in honor of his love for southeast Ohio, and he challenged all those with a heart for southeast Ohio who are able to join him.

“I’m so grateful for the outpouring of support from people across the country around the food insecurity issues faced by those in my region,” said Burrow. “The initial funds that were raised have had an immediate impact for people throughout Athens County, and I am honored to lend my support and voice to this new initiative that will ensure that impact lasts long into the future.” 

The creation of the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund is just the latest chapter in an unfolding story of unprecedented grassroots giving, initially sparked by Joe Burrow’s remarks during his Heisman Trophy acceptance speech in December 2019.

When Joe Burrow stood up on stage to accept the Heisman, 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 recently, 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 the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO).

The Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund is designed to make a difference for the food insecure population of southeast Ohio for generations to come. The Fund is being made possible through thousands of gifts from Athens to Louisiana and beyond. And each of these gifts has been matched dollar-for-dollar by the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio.

“After Joe Burrow’s speech, the gifts to the food pantry just kept coming: $5 here, and $30 there, on and on for weeks. It was awe-inspiring,” said Karin Bright, president of the Athens County Food Pantry. “What we then had to decide was how the more than $650,000 that was raised could make the greatest difference for the children and families of our communities. Knowing the scale of the persistent need, and that the problem could never be solved overnight, we decided to take a portion of the money, pair it with matching dollars from FAO, and invest it in an endowment fund. The Fund is set up to ensure that we will have long-lasting and ever-growing resources to continue making a difference for generations to come.”

The roughly $650,600 raised for the Athens County Food Pantry as of January 31, 2020 came through contributions from well over 13,000 people, inspired by Joe Burrow’s speech and donated largely through an impromptu Facebook fundraiser set up by Athens local, Will Drabold. For an organization with an annual operating budget of $75,000, this level of grassroots giving was unprecedented. The influx of contributions represented a truly watershed moment for the Athens County Food Pantry and their fight against food insecurity.

Yet even this large amount of money is nowhere near enough to come anywhere close to eliminating the crisis of food insecurity in Athens County or southeast Ohio more broadly. According to Feeding America, Athens County is home to about 12,970 food insecure people as of 2016. That’s about 19.9% of the population, making Athens County the most food insecure county in the State of Ohio. This means that if all of the donations inspired by Joe Burrow’s speech were put to use in the near future, the food pantry would have $50.24 per food insecure person in the county. It would not stretch nearly far enough. And that’s given the 2016 data. As recent events have made clear, those numbers are changing daily in light of the economic crisis and soaring unemployment triggered by COVID-19. The food insecure population is only growing.

This great challenge is one exacerbated by a philanthropy gap facing Appalachian Ohio. This region of Ohio, which includes Athens County, has nine times fewer philanthropic dollars than the rest of the state of Ohio, leaving nonprofits organizations, communities, and individuals with fewer dollars to invest in meeting health and hunger needs, creating educational opportunities, and community development. Growing philanthropic dollars to support organizations like the Athens County Food Pantry is at the heart of the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio’s mission and is why matching dollars were available to support the creation of the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund.

“When we listened to Joe Burrow’s speech and heard him say that any child of Appalachia can ‘be up here too’ – accepting a Heisman Trophy – we knew that we had found a kindred spirit and a leader,” said Cara Dingus Brook, president and CEO of the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio. “All new gifts to the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund will help us amplify his message, and reach the many children, families, and individuals in need of support from the Athens County Food Pantry for many years. The COVID-19 crisis has made all the more plain the great needs and inequities in our communities. We hope the creation of this Fund will give us all the chance to make just as clear our commitment to our neighbors as well.”

The opportunity to match all the gifts that supported the creation of the Fund was available thanks to an investment in FAO through the State of Ohio’s budget, which was designed to grow endowment funds serving Appalachian Ohio through match dollars.

Just as the recent NFL draft has us all looking to the next chapter of Joe Burrow’s story, the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund has us all looking to the future of meeting needs and creating opportunities to better serve the food insecure children and families of Athens County and its neighbors. And as the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund grows over time, more dollars will be available each and every year to address food insecurity through the Athens County Food Pantry.

A number of organizations have already pledged their support to the Fund, including Kroger, Peoples Bank, and Bose.

As so many with a heart for southeast Ohio work to grow the Fund to support the food insecure members of our communities for generations, every contribution, no matter its size, will make a difference.

If you would like to be a part of this unfolding and amazing story, make a gift online here, or mail your donation to the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, PO Box 456, Nelsonville, OH 45764 and designate the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund.

Gifts may also be made in many other ways, including cash, bequests, appreciated stock, IRA distributions, and life insurance. For more information about the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund, and how to give in the way that works best for you, contact the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio at 740.753.1111 or

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 or visit @AthensCountyFoodPantry on Facebook.

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