Kent Social Services serves as a pillar of hope for Portage County residents

Downtown Kent and Kent State University seem to be transforming and continuously evolving. Despite these economic impacts, rural Portage County and its residents continue to struggle with hunger. 

Thankfully, Kent Social Services has been serving the Kent, Brady Lake and Franklin Township communities for nearly 100 years. It has been a partner within the Foodbank’s hunger-relief network for the past 28 years.

Kent Social Services offers hot meals to residents six days per week and allows people to shop its pantry by appointment. The impacts of COVID-19 have altered the way these programs operate, but serving people remains at the forefront of its efforts.

Before the coronavirus left many people out of work, the nonprofit was primarily serving senior citizens and families with children. The large increase in demand is from middle-aged people and families still out of work or trying to get back on their feet. Before the pandemic, the hot meal program would serve 50 meals on average; now it could serve 150 meals daily.

“We’re seeing a lot of new faces. More and more of the people we’re serving are telling us they’ve never had to do this before,” said Marquice Seward, Kent Social Services program manager. “We try to reassure them that things are going to be okay and that this is why we’re here.”

Every day, Marquice and her staff are not only managing the food programs, but they’re serving as case managers for the people in their community. Helping connect people with housing, employment, clothes, a working tent, the list goes on and on.

“People suffering from hunger didn’t get there overnight — something has happened in their life. People can lose everything. Everyone has a story, and every story is different.”

Though Marquice sees much heartache through her job, she continues to remain optimistic. Witnessing positive results in the lives of the people she’s helping keeps her motivated.

“If we can feed one person, then I know we’ve done our job. At the end of the day, it’s all worth it because of the clients we serve.”