School, brewery and church partner together to feed local families

Some say it takes a village to raise a child. In the North Canton community, the 'village' is three dedicated organizations that refuse to allow its children to struggle with hunger. 

In early 2019, Ella, a compassionate eighth grader, came home from school feeling troubled. She overheard a classmate requesting a weekend food backpack, but there were no more left. Her father, Jeff Joliat, owner of Shale Brewing Company, couldn’t believe that hunger was present in his own backyard. He called the school to see what he could do to help.

“It is my opinion, that under no circumstances, should any child find themselves in a situation where they are food insecure. We are the wealthiest nation on the planet; this should never be allowed to happen,” he said.

Meanwhile, The Summit Church, right around the corner from Shale, was distributing meals to local families around the holidays, but wanted to make an impact year-round. “We wanted to make a difference, but we weren’t sure where to start,” said Jeff Dayton, assistant pastor at the church.

Enter the staff of the North Canton City Schools CARE Team. They introduced Joliat and Dayton, both concerned with hunger relief, and a unique partnership was formed, the North Canton Cares Pantry.

Joliat volunteers his time and resources to pick up food items for the pantry from the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. He then stores those items in a designated area within the brewery, as the church pantry doesn’t have the space.

The CARE Team refers school families to the pantry, open two days each month. “The North Canton Cares Pantry has become one of the most impacting referrals we make,” said Judy DeMarco, the CARE Team family support specialist.

“By helping families deal with their monthly food budgets, they can have a little more to deal with other vital expenses. We are so grateful for all the help they have offered our families,” she said.

Though Dayton has already seen several families get back on their feet and no longer need the pantry’s services, he and the CARE Team are working hard to destigmatize visiting the pantry and asking for help.

“Hunger looks like your neighbor next door, someone who has overextended themselves, and though they’re having a hard time making ends meet, they’re embarrassed to ask for help,” he explained.

The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank and its network of hunger-relief partners, like the North Canton Cares Pantry, are here for families who need a little extra help. It’s because of your generous support, we’re able to make a significant impact in our community.