TOWNSHIP – Community leaders and supporters of the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank gathered on Thursday to celebrate the first non-profit warehouse in Stark County and the very first pantry.
The nearly 40,000 square foot Stark County campus located at 1365 Cherry Ave. NE includes a warehouse, pantry and resource center, as well as other community spaces. Its creation dates back to 2014 Stark Community Foundation Report on the future of food security in the county.
âThe opening of the Stark County campus took years,â said Michelle Hinton, vice president of the food bank.
The US Department of Agriculture defines âfood insecurityâ as a lack of reliable access to adequate food and âhungerâ as a possible condition that results.
Mark Samolczyk, CEO of the Stark Community Foundation, said the foundation’s report, which cites the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank, found that 15.3% of Stark County residents and 23.8% of children suffer from food insecurity.
âIn a community like ours, no one should go hungry,â he said.
Mayor Thomas Bernabei on Thursday proclaimed Canton’s “food security day” at the groundbreaking ceremony, which gathered more than 200 people. He said he was saddened when Fishers Foods announced the closure of the grocery store on the same site in 2018, but became optimistic as the food bank’s plans developed.
âThis is a step forward, a big step forward in Canton and in Stark County, Ohio,â he said.
Daniel Flowers, President and CEO of the Food Bank, recognized many community partners, donors and elected officials at the ceremony. He said the campus project was a “collective achievement of the highest aspirations,” which continued into 2020 despite a record year of food distribution.
Flowers also thanked the food bank workers who responded to the increased demand for food during the pandemic.
âWhat a blessing you are to so many people,â he said.
The Stark County campus will host an open house to the public from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on July 29. Food distribution will begin July 12 to partners such as the Stark County Hunger Task Force.
Bob Fay, chair of the task force, said two staff and several volunteers are helping 40 pantries across the county coordinate food and resources. He expects the local food bank campus to make distribution more efficient and offer a wider variety of foods.
âIt will be a saving not having to drive all the way to Akron,â said Fay.
Starting August 3, the pantry and resource room will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Free services will include health checkups by the Aultman Working on Wellness team, civil legal assistance from Community Legal Aid and employment programs from Goodwill.
Canton City Health Commissioner James Adams said the campus would also be used for health awareness, such as the Stark County Toward Health Resiliency for Infant Vitality and Equity (THRIVE) program to reduce infant mortality. . He recognized food banks as a way to bring communities together and improve the health of individuals through access to quality food.
âIt’s a wonderful resource for the community,â Adams said.
The food bank said it is adding 10 new positions for the Stark County campus and expects some Akron employees to move to the new location. Volunteer opportunities will begin on July 26.
The Stark County campus cost $ 6.9 million to build and $ 9.1 million in total, including the purchase of the property, building materials and additional expenses. It was funded by Grow up for good: The campaign to go further and feed more.
The $ 11.5 million fundraising campaign, announced in February 2020, will also fund renovations and expansion at the food bank’s main campus in Akron. About $ 500,000 is still needed and Hinton said work on the Akron campus was on hold due to recent increases in the costs of building materials.