19.2 million pounds of food. 1,695 volunteers. More than 25,000 hours of support. These numbers are important to the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. Why? Because one in seven Ohio households face a risk of hunger. Because one in five Ohio children are food insecure.
These statistics are just a few that keep Michelle Hinton, director of marketing and communications, and other organizations working for food. Hinton has only been at the Akron-Canton Food Bank for two years, but she has loved every minute since starting.
“I came from 10 years of corporate background, but volunteering was always an important part of my life,” she said. “It’s great being a voice for the clients and hearing how agencies are making a difference in people’s lives.”
The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank acts as a home base for more than 450 agencies in area. The agencies can sign up and see a menu on the Foodbank’s website. From there they can place an order and schedule a time to pick up their food. Then, the agencies can distribute the food to clients who need it.
The food distributed is donated from corporations, individuals, foundations and other various sources. Additionally, the state budget provides support to food banks all throughout Ohio. And the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank often provides support for smaller food banks that ask for it and even has a room devoted to sorting the food that’s distributed to these food banks. Currently, one of the rooms, the produce room, is filled with tons of different fresh produce items ranging from onions to carrots.
Hinton, pointing out the carrots, said, “We like to call these cosmetically challenged foods. Often, grocery stores will donate produce that looks a bit different or gives us onions that are too small because they won’t sell as well.”
Although the Foodbank doesn’t create many programs to distribute its food in the warehouse directly to families, the organization works hard to educate people about hunger. Food safety training is taught to member agencies while staff even volunteer to the nonprofits that use the foodbank.
In addition, the Foodbank is working on programs to feed more children in the Summit and Stark County area. Statistics in a recent study produced by Feeding America showed that 24.9 percent of children live at risk of hunger in Summit County. In Stark County this number is 27.9 percent. A donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, gave the foodbank a significant contribution to start a “kids power pack” program.
“We hope to create 25,000 kids packs with lunch items and breakfast items that will give children a well-balanced meal under the USDA’s (U.S. Department of Agriculture) guidelines,” Hinton said. “Agencies will distribute these packs to children.”
Hinton said there is a need for this kind of project and to help the individuals who are struggling in today’s economy. The Foodbank is seeing an increase of people who have lost jobs and who have never been in this type of situation before — food insecurity.
The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank has a goal to tackle this problem by distributing 20 million pounds of food by 2012. It’s a big number, but the nonprofit is on track to accomplish it, regardless of what the food looks like.
For more information, visit www.akroncantonfoodbank.org.