More than 20 years ago while caring for patients as a visiting nurse, Cheryl saw a community struggling to afford the basic necessities. As luck would have it, a preacher at Faith United Methodist Church was hoping to start a food pantry and connected with Cheryl to collaborate on the project. Together, they created Faith Kitchen in Canton.
Faith Kitchen operates out of Crystal Park United Methodist Church on the last Saturday of each month, when Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits tend to run low. Families and individuals are invited to enjoy a meal before shopping the pantry for staples like eggs, bread and produce, in addition to household products that aren’t covered by SNAP benefits.
The need in Stark County is widespread, with 1 in 7 individuals not knowing where they’ll find their next nourishing meal.
“There are a lot of people that come in with their families, or people who have lost their jobs. Other folks can’t buy medicine, pay the electric bill and still eat. Food costs a lot of money,” explains Fran, the pantry manager.
Faith Kitchen began as a simple program serving lunch to 10-20 individuals and has grown exponentially through its partnership with the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. In 2018, it distributed more than 92,000 meals to nearly 2,000 households.
The program runs entirely on donations and volunteers. Church members of Faith UMC, Crystal Park UMC and nearby churches, Boy Scouts, families and students looking for volunteer service hours all lend a helping hand.
"If everybody does a little bit, then together, we’ve all done a lot,” said Cheryl.