AKRON — The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank has set a goal of raising $1.3 million this year to provide 5.2 million meals in eight counties, and a number of people and businesses from Wayne County will be joining the fight to end food insecurity.
“Man, we’ve come a long way,” Dan Flowers, CEO and president of the foodbank, said Thursday at the annual Harvest for Hunger campaign kickoff at the John S. Knight Center. The event was once held in the basement of the old foodbank facility, and now the event has grown so much, it was moved to the Knight Center.
The ACRF helped feed 5 million people last year, but it wasn’t enough, Vice President Shelly Hinton told the group. All of the money raised during Harvest for Hunger will go directly to buying food.
This year, the target is 5.2 million meals, and the Wooster Hope Center’s Greater Wayne County Food Pantry is a partner in the effort. Through the food pantry, about 18,000 families were served.
“The foodbank does great work,” said board member Greg Long, managing partner of Long, Cook & Samsa.
Long appreciated Flowers arranging to have a simulcast with WKYC Ch. 3 so the Hunger for Harvest guests could see on two large screens the work being done back at the foodbank headquarters. Volunteers were loading up trailers with food, and others were sorting donated items.
“That made it come alive for the people,” Long said.
“This is a good organization, and they are passionate about getting food out to the people,” state Rep. Scott Wiggam of Wooster said.
“I didn’t realize the enormity of the program,” Wayne County Commissioner Sue Smail said. “We have our foodbank in Wooster, but I had no idea” of the size and scope of the foodbank’s work, referencing the 5 million meals and the 32.9 million pounds of food distributed.
Richard Frazier, executive director of the Wooster Hope Center, said the Greater Wayne County Food Pantry helped get 1.2 million pounds of food to those dealing with hunger or food insecurity.
“I am thankful for the partnership with the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, and I appreciate Dan Flowers and all he does to motivate people to fight hunger,” Frazier said. “I am thankful we are able to help with that need in Wayne County and that’s mainly because of the community.
“We receive support from businesses, churches and the residents. We continue to grow because of the community.”
The J.M. Smucker Co., Buehler’s Fresh Foods and Campbell Construction were among the sponsors of the event.
Jeff Stevenson, vice president of business development for Campbell Construction, has been neighbors with Flowers for years, so he knows of the good work he and the foodbank do.
“Campbell Construction wants to help get food to those who are in need,” Stevenson said. “We also were a sponsor for the Selfless Elf 5K. We happy to help the foodbank and its mission.”
Jim Porter, publisher and CEO with GateHouse Media Ohio, served as honorary campaign co-chairman with Dr. Brian Harte of Cleveland Clinic Akron General. Porter told the group, “This is a really big issue.” He pledged GateHouse Media Ohio newspapers, which includes The Daily Record and the Times-Gazette, will help spread the news of businesses or groups who have fundraisers or food drives to support the Harvest for Hunger campaign.
“The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank is a lifeline to so many people,” Porter said.