Convention center glows green for community breakfast kicking off Foodbank's Harvest for Hunger Campaign
Feb 28, 2023
The ballroom in the downtown Akron convention center glowed green this morning as more than 400 guests came together to celebrate the kick off of the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank’s annual Harvest for Hunger Campaign.
Community members, food programs, organizations and businesses rallied together in support of the 32nd annual Campaign. The kickoff was also streamed live for those wanting to participate virtually.
The Foodbank’s goal for the Campaign is to provide the equivalent of 4.54 million meals, including $1.12 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 nearly 600 food pantries, hot meal sites, shelters, children and senior citizen programs and other hunger-relief programs.
The Campaign is led by co-chairs Bernett L. Williams, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer; vice president for community initiatives at Akron Children’s Hospital, and Mark Sterling, CEO of Beaver Constructors. Williams, and in Sterling’s absence, his daughter and President of Beaver Constructors Betsy Sterling, 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.
“The Campaign continues to be successful because of the faithful support of community organizations and businesses like yours,” said Williams. “It always amazes me to see so many community partners come together to rally behind one common cause, feeding people and fighting hunger.”
The Harvest for Hunger Campaign is the Foodbank’s largest fundraising campaign and helps support food distribution all year long. In addition to raising needed funds and food items for the Foodbank’s eight-county service area, the Campaign hopes to educate the community on the tough choices people struggling with hunger are often forced to make, like choosing between groceries and other basic necessities.
Dan Flowers, president and CEO of the Foodbank, reflected on the organization’s impact, highlighting its inflation and post-pandemic recovery efforts. The Foodbank served thousands of people with its mobile, pop-up pantry, through its home delivery program, in partnership with local health systems, at the food pantry in its Stark County Campus and with drive-thru distributions. In 2022, the Foodbank, in partnership with its hunger-relief network, provided access to 23.3 million meals for the region.
“It was a year marked by innovation and collaboration,” said Flowers. “We discovered, when we really stepped back and considered our position, that we experienced as many as 10 years of traditional growth and innovation in just a few short years.”
The morning’s program transitioned to looking toward the future as the Foodbank unveiled its new strategic plan.
The 3-year plan highlights five focus areas in which the Foodbank hopes to deepen its impact and includes Neighbors, the people seeking help with groceries; Communities, the community partners committed to hunger relief in its eight-county service area; Investors, those who donate food, money or time to the organization; Foodbankers, its staff; and the Foodbank, the entity as an organization.
“We engaged in countless conversations with families receiving food, hunger-relief partners, volunteers, donors, community leaders – many of you in this room today – to collaboratively develop a new strategic plan that moves us closer to our vision of a thriving community free of hunger,” said Flowers.
The program concluded with new Foodbank Vice President Katie Carver Reed sharing her personal story with hunger.
“I’ve had a relationship with our Foodbank since my childhood – a relationship that began well before I even knew what the Foodbank was,” said Carver Reed.
Her family needed help with groceries when she was growing up. She’s dedicated her career at the Foodbank to helping people struggling with hunger.
“I can’t say who I would have become or where I would be without the generosity of this community. So please, join us in creating a community where everyone gets to feel what I’ve just described. That feeling that, even when life is challenging and cruel, there is a community of people, of kind strangers, that will support you, believe in you, and celebrate how hard you have worked to overcome whatever has challenged you.”
The Harvest for Hunger Campaign is a collaborative partnership between the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, Greater Cleveland Food Bank, Second Harvest Food Bank of Mahoning Valley and the Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio and focuses on fighting hunger across 21 counties in Northeast Ohio. If interested in participating in the 2023 Harvest for Hunger Campaign, please visit akroncantonfoodbank.org/harvest.