Stark Community Foundation Announces Largest Grant in Foundation History

View of the inside of Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank’s facility in Akron. Distribution in the current facility has reached maximum capacity, and food storage and staff space is limited. The Foodbank has plans to construct and operate a second facility in downtown Canton on the former Fishers Foods property on the corner of Cherry Avenue NE and 14th Street NE. The facility is expected to open as early as 2021.

Stark Community Foundation’s Board of Directors recently approved a $1 million dollar grant to Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank to construct and operate a new facility in Canton, making it the largest grant awarded in the Foundation’s 56-year-history.

This monumental grant comes after a six-year collaborative effort to fight food insecurity in Stark County. After receiving a high volume of grant requests focused on hunger relief, the Foundation commissioned a study to gain a deeper understanding of the hunger issues facing individuals and families in our community. Released publicly in 2015, The Future of Food Security Report revealed 15.3% of Stark County's population (57,730 people) and 23.8% of children (20,650) are considered "food insecure," meaning they lack regular access to enough food for an active, healthy life.

The report also identified this facility as a key goal in order to make a meaningful impact in addressing local food issues and to give way to true opportunities that will make a noticeable difference in Stark County. Planning and implementation grants were awarded to organizations to find long-term solutions to hunger in partnership with The Paul & Carol David Foundation and Sisters of Charity Foundation of Canton. Collectively, more than $500,000 has already been invested in this initiative, including support for the merger of the Foodbank and the food rescue organization, Community Harvest, to improve food sourcing efficiencies.

While the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank has served Stark County since 1987, its only physical location is in Akron. According to the Foodbank, distribution in its current facility has reached maximum capacity, and food storage and staff space is limited. In order to close the Meal Gap in its eight-county service region and ensure everyone has access to the nourishing meals they need, a second facility is necessary. The selection of Stark County to expand its physical presence will not only better serve the Stark County community, the second largest county in the Foodbank’s service area next to Summit, but will also save fuel and time for all hunger-relief partners in its southern counties.

“The impact we intend to see from this investment is not only for the betterment of the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank and its operations, but for the 108 hunger-relief programs within the Foodbank’s network serving Stark County,” said Mark J. Samolczyk, president and CEO of Stark Community Foundation. “A unique facility like this will have a positive ripple effect on the health of our community.”

Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank’s new facility will be located on the corner of Cherry Avenue NE and 14th Street NE in downtown Canton. The Foodbank has organized extensive collaboration and planning meetings with local partners and will be developing a full menu of program plans for the site with an emphasis on supporting its network of hunger-relief partners while strengthening food access in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Expected to open as early as 2021, the facility will feature a:

  • distribution center to increase access to serve hunger-relief partners more efficiently;
  • collaborative and community space to engage local organizations;
  • teaching kitchen for food related training and educational activities;
  • food pantry and resource center to support greater food security in the surrounding neighborhoods;
  • innovative space for piloting food security initiatives to support individuals in need and encourage self-sufficiency; and
  • volunteer center to engage thousands of additional community members in hunger relief

“The people living in poverty in the state of Ohio is essentially at the same rate as it was during the great recession. We know the need of families facing hunger in our community is persistent and our vision is to help create a thriving community free of hunger,” said Dan Flowers, president and CEO of the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. “The Foodbank’s expansion into Stark County is a significant step toward a stronger and better-connected hunger-relief network. We are incredibly grateful for Stark Community Foundation, The Paul & Carol David Foundation and Sisters of Charity Foundation of Canton for their leadership and ongoing commitment to food security.”

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