The Suburbanite
  • Stark food pantry visits up by nearly 50 percent

  •  Local food pantries are seeing an increased need for their services.


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  • A lull inevitably hits the car wash business between the warm weather in fall and the dirt, grime, and salt that comes with snow.
    For Anthony McElroy of Canton who works at a car wash, that means supplementing his food pantry at the Stark County Hunger Task Force’s pantry.
    McElroy said Wednesday as he shopped with his friend Jerome Ware that he was preparing for Thanksgiving with his three children.
    “We love this place,” said McElroy, who said he needed help as the month came to an end.
    “We’re very grateful,” added Ware, who is on disability and has three children, as well.
    Their situation, unfortunately, is not unique.
    According to Amy Weisbrod, executive director of the SCHTF, demand for food is up this year with more than 22,000 Stark County residents seeking help from task force-sponsored pantries each month, as compared to 15,000 last year.
    “Obviously, it’s the lack of jobs, because we are seeing a new face at the pantries,” Weisbrod said. “We are seeing working people who can’t meet the needs of their families.”
    The STHTF sponsors food and monetary drives, then offers financial, logistical, and operational support to its over 30 pantries by allocating money for them to buy food at the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.
    It’s pantry at 408 Ninth St. SW has seen a 100 percent increase in visitors — 1,000 clients per month to now 2,000.
    Assistant Director Ralph Norton said their pantry has been busier than usual all month.
    He said he thinks it’s possible that clients are anticipating the decrease in Ohio food stamps in January.
    “We may have people thinking ahead in trying to keep their pantries full,” Norton said.
    He said the task force has received much support this month, including a “Fill a Semi to Feed the Hungry” drive sponsored by the county’s United Church of Christ congregations, which collected 3,620 pounds of food.
    The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank provides food and other essential items to member agencies in eight Northeast Ohio counties including Stark. The member agencies operate more than 450 programs such as food pantries, hot- meal sites, shelters and other hunger-relief programs in the neighborhoods and communities where people need food.
    Michelle Hinton, director of external affairs at the food bank, said that a few years ago, they saw double-digit growth across their service area in the number of clients served and since then, they continue to see steady increases.
    “When we look at the number of client visits to our agencies operating hunger-relief programs in Stark County, visits have increased approximately 13 percent over 2011,” Hinton said.
    As for food donations, she said their supply from both government sources and food manufacturers has been steadily decreasing. This has required them to depend more on local donors.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We have also taken donated dollars to purchase produce and other foods to help sustain our level of distribution,” she added.
    This time of year is critical for financial donations, she said, as it determines how much food they are able to distribute throughout the year. Forty percent of the total financial contributions for the year are donated during this holiday season.
    “Our budget for this year is to raise $3.8 million dollars and we just surpassed $2.8,” Hinton reports. “That means that in the next 6 weeks we need to raise an additional $1 million to enable us to sustain the amount of food that we are distributing to our agencies. Unfortunately, if we can’t maintain that level it would mean less food going out our doors to the many families struggling with hunger.”

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