Foodbank partners with Library to feed hungry children
Feb 26, 2015
There has long been an abundance of goodwill and kinship between the Akron-Summit County Public Library and the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. From that spirit of abundance came an innovative idea that has turned into a transformative program for children and teens in our community.
In the fall of 2013, David Jennings, Director of the Akron-Summit County Public Library, and Dan Flowers, President & CEO of the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank got together for one of their regular check-ins.
“We meet for lunch regularly and brainstorm partnership ideas,” said Flowers. “We started talking about how to better engage the children that go to the library after school to fill time before going home. We asked ourselves, ‘if kids were going straight home after school, what would they want to do?’ And we both said, ‘they would want to eat a snack!’ That realization led us into a conversation about all the kids in this community who go home to empty houses and empty cupboards after school. That’s when we knew we could help.”
It was because of that lunch that in January 2014, the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank partnered with the Akron-Summit County Public Library to pilot a snack program with a simple premise; have snacks available for the hungry kids who visit the libraries after school in this community every day.
“Some other libraries have tried programs like this, but we did not know what to expect,” said Jennings. “Once the pilot started, we began hearing about kids staying around after the snack, interacting with each other and with our staff. They stay for learning activities or games, and do their homework. Such unanticipated but very positive outcomes have continued once we expanded to all of our Akron locations.”
At one branch library, a staff member commented, “It’s a great environment to get to know the local kids better. I got to help a little girl with her homework and teach her about meridians. I also helped twins make happy birthday cards for their mom. It’s really a delight to be a part of the after-school snack program. I like being able to interact with the kids and encourage them to either do their homework or be creative.”
“Because of loss of state and local revenue, our library has a significantly reduced budget and cannot devote any funds to this effort,” said Jennings. “But when we offered to provide the venue for this program in our buildings, Dan immediately offered to support the program with Foodbank funding. We truly appreciate their commitment to this program. It’s a great collaboration!”
In just one year, the program has experienced significant growth. In the beginning, it served an average of 35 children a day at two library branches. Now just a year later, in January 2015, it serves an average of 250 children a day at 10 participating library branches including: Main Library, Ellet Branch, Firestone Park Branch, Goodyear Park Branch, Highland Square Branch, Kenmore Branch, Maple Valley Branch, North Hill Branch, Odom Branch and Northwest Akron Branch.
“The after-school snack program is proving a new solution for an unmet need of our local kids,” said Flowers. “Kids love to go for a snack after school, and this program puts them in a safe place full of educational and learning resources. I love it!”
This year in Summit County, one in four children will face hunger, and the Foodbank will be there to help. Feeding initiatives like this program are funded by Harvest for Hunger, or other Foodbank fundraising campaigns and events.
If you’d like more information on supporting this program, or supporting Harvest for Hunger, please visit akroncantonfoodbank.org.