The Suburbanite
  • Increased funds mean more fresh produce at food banks

  • More money from the state equals more food, especially fresh produce, for food banks.

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  • Fresh blueberries, strawberries, watermelon and rows of sweet corn — all Ohio grown.
    The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank helps make these items — and more — available to area people in need.
    The new state budget, signed into effect June 30, included $14.5 million a year to support the state’s food banks — up by $2 million per year from the previous budget.
    In addition, an executive order signed in May by Gov. John Kasich provides $1.5 million to be divided among Ohio’s food banks to purchase and distribute foods or health and hygiene items, and $500,000 for “farmers market” distributions of locally grown fruits and vegetables.
    “Every day we distribute 100,000 to 150,000 pounds of food off our dock to charities around the region. We are really meeting the hunger needs around the region and Stark County,” said Dan Flowers, president and chief executive officer for the food bank.
    Almost all of the charities, he said, are run exclusively by volunteers.
    “Over the last 10 or more years, since I’ve been in this job, the Ohio Association of Foodbanks has been the recipient of state grant money from the Ohio General Assembly. In this most recent state budget there is a $2 million increase in funding that goes to Ohio foodbanks at a great time. There are so many people who need it and depend on it right now.”
    For Stark County, which received more than 1 million pounds of state-funded produce and food — 25 percent of the food distributed by the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank in 2012 — it means an increase in fresh fruits and vegetables and other prepared foods, health and hygiene items, and infant care products such as formulas and diapers.
    “Every day, 35 to 50 different soup kitchens, food pantries and homeless shelters come from around the region to pick up food that is primarily donated from wholesalers, manufacturers and distributors along with the food that comes from U.S. Federal Commodities. Hunger is a reality for every community in our nation, including our own,” said Flowers.
    Following the bill’s signing, the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank purchased:
    • 38,016 pounds of peanut butter (50,688 jars)
    • 21,934 pounds of macaroni and cheese (48,384 boxes)
    • Two pallet riders, to better equip the Foodbank to handle larger amounts of food and increase productivity in its busy warehouse.
    Simply put, it means more food for those in need.
    The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank does not have specific amount of food allocated for Stark, but because of its increasing funding overall, the food bank will be able to provide more food here during 2014-15, along with the other counties it serves. The food bank distributes to Stark, Carroll, Holmes, Medina, Portage, Summit, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties.
    “With feeding 25,000 Stark County residents each month, the Stark County Hunger Task Force is pleased to hear about the increased support to the foodbank network from the State of Ohio,” said Amy Weisbrod, executive director of the Stark County Hunger Task Force. “The increase will allow food pantries, like the 31 we support financially, to place more protein and produce on their shelves and ultimately into the hands of the hungry in Stark County.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Reach Denise at 330-580-8321
    On Twitter: @dsauttersREP

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