The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank kicked off the 33rd annual Harvest for Hunger Campaign in downtown Akron today. More than 400 guests were welcomed into the glowing green ballroom at the John S. Knight Center, ready to rally together to support local hunger relief.

The Foodbank’s goal for the campaign is to provide the equivalent of 4.2 million meals, including $1.4 million and 100,000 pounds of food. All proceeds from the campaign go directly to providing food for the local community, distributed through the Foodbank’s network of 600 food pantries, hot meal sites, shelters, children and senior citizen programs across eight counties.

The event kicked off with an impactful video highlighting the increase in demand the Foodbank experienced in 2023. Last year was one of the largest years in terms of people seeking help with food – more than 3 million visits were made to the Foodbank’s hunger-relief network, a 21% increase compared to 2022.

“Food insecurity has been a constant in our community and in recent years, the story has been grim. But every day, with a community of helpers, your Foodbank is moving toward solutions, one meal at a time,” said Dan Flowers, Foodbank president and CEO.

Keynote speaker for the event was Joree Novotny, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks. Novotny began her food bank career 15 years ago in Akron. “For one transformative year of my life after college graduation, I got to serve as an AmeriCorps member right here at your Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.”

Novotny went on to share how food insecurity has impacted Ohioans and the nation. “Our hunger relief network has seen need for help with food at levels higher than at any time in our history, even at the height of the pandemic.” Nationally, the spike in demand was the largest single-year increase since 2008, she said.

Novotny recognized that though recent statistics create a somber situation, she’s confident the community can work together to ensure families have access to the food they need. “This is a community and a region rooted in leading through vision, compassion and partnership. …and we will be here for every person who needs us, in every situation…because we believe, deep down to our very core, that the promise of adequate, wholesome food must exist before any other possibilities can be cultivated.”

The program ended with the lights low, as guests heard voice messages filled with gratitude and hope from local families who recently received groceries from the Foodbank and its hunger-relief partners. “My name is Sheena and the food program is important to me. I'm a single mom on a fixed income, and it's becoming more and more difficult to feed me and my son. This program has been such a relief and has taken the pressure off in so many ways. I've only been coming for the last two weeks, but already it's made such a difference in our household.”

The Campaign is led by co-chairs Mark Sterling, CEO of Beaver Constructors, Inc. and Laura Duda, senior vice president and chief communications officer at The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. They encouraged guests to support the campaign by coordinating food and funds drives, through employee giving campaigns, volunteering and participating in Check Out Hunger, the donation collection that takes place in many local supermarkets and at GetGo gas stations.

“With more than 11% of Summit County families facing food insecurity, there is nothing more important in our community than satisfying this most basic of human needs,” said Duda. “Goodyear deeply values the work of the Foodbank and its work to ensure everyone in our community has access to nutritional food, the core building block of a healthy and active life. Our associates are dedicated to supporting the Foodbank, during Harvest for Hunger and year-round.”  

“The Beaver Companies and our employees have a long history of helping those in need, especially those living in poverty in our inner cities,” said Sterling. “We have a long relationship with the Foodbank and are glad to do everything we can to support their mission of feeding those in need because no one does it better than they do.”

The Harvest for Hunger Campaign is the Foodbank’s largest fundraising campaign and helps support food distribution all year long. It is a collaborative partnership between the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, Greater Cleveland Food Bank, Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley and the Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio. The campaign focuses on fighting hunger across 21 counties in Northeast Ohio. If interested in participating in the 2024 Harvest for Hunger Campaign, please visit

Thank you to event title sponsors: Beaver Constructors, Inc., Energy Harbor, Huntington National Bank, The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., NJM Insurance Group, Catherine & Hyun Park (FirstEnergy) and State and Federal Communications.