By: Katie Sobiech
Hunger… It’s currently affecting billions of people around the globe, but in order to fight it you don’t need to hop on a plane and fly to a third world country. The hungry are right here among us in Summit and the surrounding counties.
“Annually we serve approximately 180,000 different people,” Michelle Hinton, Director of Marketing and Communications at the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank (ACRF) shared.
They serve Carroll, Holmes, Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit, Tuscarawas and Wayne Counties.
Thirty-one percent of those served by the food bank are children under 18 years old.
There has been a 45% increase in number of pounds of food they distributed from 2007 to 2009.
“The numbers of those in need have increased tremendously in the past couple of years unfortunately because of the economy,” Hinton said, “We’re seeing what I refer to as ‘the new face of hunger’ – there are a lot of individuals who worked all of their life, may have college degrees, but they’re finding themselves out of work and having to decide between paying for their mortgage, or food, or utilities.”
This epidemic is bringing in clients that never dreamed of being served by the food bank before.
“It’s a very tough time,” Hinton said.
What They Do
Currently, the ACFB provides food and other items to over 430 different member agencies. These organizations vary from churches, to schools, to agencies such as Job and Family Services.
“Most of the member agencies have a soup kitchen, a homeless shelter, or pantry which we supply food for,” Hinton said.
The ACRF’s Member Services Department makes sure the agencies are compliant to specific rules.
“We want to make sure that the area they are handing out food in is clean and safe and that they have the refrigerator at the right temperature and are serving the food properly. They make sure they’re meeting all of our requirements,” Hinton said.
Requirements are given by the State of Ohio, the Government and the Feeding America program.
How it Works
Each agency has the flexibility to choose from on online menu for their clients. A new menu is posted daily on the ACFB website, showing what food is available at the moment. They simply put in their order and come pick it up.
There is also a “marketplace” available in the warehouse where they can select random foods without having to place an order.
“There’s a farm in Bath called Crown Point, and we get a lot of vegetables from them. We want to get this food out quickly to make sure the agency takes it back and serves it right away before it expires,” Hinton said.
The warehouse holding all of the food is enormous; about 85,000 square feet.
Not only do donations come pouring in, but the ACRF picks up items from stores such as Wal-Mart, Marcs, Aldi’s and Sam’s Club to name a few… They are given the products that are damaged or about to expire.
Their cooler holds an enormous amount of fresh produce including corn, potatoes, onions and more.
“This is cosmetically challenged produce,” Hinton described it, “One time I saw what I thought were yams because they were very big, but they were carrots. Farmers cannot sell that produce to Giant Eagle because they don’t want large carrots. They don’t know what to do with them, but if you give them to us, our agencies can cut those carrots up and put them in a vegetable soup and serve it at their meal site.”
Their affiliate, Feeding America, also provides a large amount of food. They give to all 205 foodbanks in the United States.
Further on in the tour is the 4,000 square foot freezer.
“Last year we distributed 18.7 million pounds of food,” Hinton said.
Not Just Food
“Although food is primarily what we do, a lot of people will donate miscellaneous items and essential products like toothbrushes, deodorant and diapers,” Hinton said.
They even created a “Soap Room” after partnering with GOJO, due to the number of their clients on food stamps.
“Our clients can’t buy anything besides food in many cases (with the food stamps). And they need other products like shampoo and a way to clean their clothes,” Hinton said.
So, the ACRF partnered with GOJO who helped them set up a soap dispensing machine and got their vendors to donate bottles, caps and labels. Volunteers now come in to fill soap bottles so that soap and shampoo can be listed on the menu.
- One in 10 people in food lines are seniors over 65
- More than 49% percent of clients served report having to choose between paying for utilities or heating fuel and food
- Forty-two percent of clients said they had to choose between paying for rent or a mortgage and food
- Thirty-five percent report having to choose between paying for medical bills and food
- Twenty-seven percent of clients say they must choose between transportation and food
- An estimated 400,000 people receive emergency food assistance each week from a food pantry, soup kitchen or other agency served by the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank
For more information on the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank please visit http://www.akroncantonfoodbank.org or call 330.535.6900.
Part Two coming next week!