Our Thanks to Good Samaritan Hunger Center

Feeding Students Outside of School
Posted on 10/11/2019
Image of Findley Food Distribution(Maria Lindsay for akron.com/West Side Leader)

The Good Samaritan Hunger Center has been helping the poorest of Akron area residents make sure they can put food on their tables since 1982.

According to organization officials, the center was established by Sister Jordan Haddad, who died in 2006 and was a Dominican Sister of Peace who fought to bring respect to and provide food for the poor.

Bill Kiel, who joined the center’s board of directors three years ago, said the center is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) that focuses primarily on filling in the gap for those who are food insecure. Kiel said he first started with the center as a donor and then began volunteering to “rescue” food before joining the board. Food rescue is the practice of collecting edible food that would otherwise go to waste from restaurants, grocers and other food establishments.

“There is no doubt hunger is a growing issue in our community,” he said. “Employment is up, but people are not making enough and they still need food. One in five adults in Summit County and one in six children experience food insecurity.”

Executive Director Michele Smith said the need for assistance in the Akron area is growing, but agency funding has remained flat. She added the center is funded through donations of food and funds from groups, churches and schools, as well as grants. It partners with the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank to purchase food at a deep discount and rescue food from grocery stores, gardens and restaurants.

Kiel stated they also rescue bread and pastry items such as muffins and place them in the lobby of area senior citizens’ high-rise apartments for anyone who wants them.

Kiel said agency efforts to help the poor involve mobile food pantries and summertime produce drops, as well as a weekend food pack program for all students at Akron Public Schools’ Findley Community Learning Center in North Akron.

The mobile food pantry van stops at Summit Lake Community Center, 380 W. Crosier St., on the last three Tuesdays of each month from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. and the last three Thursdays from 5 to 6 p.m.; and at Patterson Park Community Center, 800 Patterson Ave., the last three Fridays from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Kiel said the food offers visitors an opportunity to select the food they want. All visitors also get 32 ounces of frozen soup prepared at the center.

“The program strives to provide three meals for a family of four each week,” he added.

Smith stated 153,000 meals were distributed through the mobile food pantry in 2018, and this year they are seeing a 15 percent increase in visitors seeking assistance. She added the center is currently on tap to distribute 170,000 meals this year.

The weekend packs of food program for students at Findley include two breakfasts, two lunches and two snacks, as well as something for the family of the recipient children. The program this year is being expanded to offer every child at the school a weekend backpack twice a month instead of just one.

First Congregational Church in Hudson helps by providing volunteers to pack the items, Smith added.

“We are really excited to be able to expand this program to twice a month, and this is thanks to a grant from Samuel Reese Willis Foundation,” said Smith. “We are seeking additional volunteers to help pack these weekend bags.”

Smith stated that during the last year school, more than 600 weekend backpacks were distributed each month to children at Findley, and this year the center is aiming to give out 1,080 bags of food.

Another form of assistance offered by the center is a produce drop Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Akron Urban League. Smith said these projects are now complete for the year, and a fall distribution of produce was offered through early October at Ed Davis Community Center.

Kiel stated the goal of the produce drop was to distribute 50,000 pounds of fresh produce, and the effort has surpassed that.

All visitors seeking food from the mobile food pantries or the produce drops are asked to bring their own bags to carry food home.

The center also at one time offered hot meals, but funding shortages have shut that program down, said Smith.

“We had to tighten our belts this year because donations were down,” said Smith. “Our budget has remained at $135,000, but needs keep rising. We had to cancel the hot meal program last year in Barberton and beginning this summer in East Akron. We write every grant we can find, form relationships with area churches who make donations and have individuals who make monthly donations. We also got a box truck through a grant from the Northern Ohio Golf Charities and the VanDevere Bunch, which has enabled us to do a lot more for the community.”

Smith added the center is changing up its efforts to better serve those in need.

“We find food distribution has a greater impact on people,” she said. “Minimum wage jobs don’t even cover rent today, so these people need help. There are several hot meal programs in the area but few food pantries, so we are focusing our efforts more of providing them.”

The center also hosts various fundraisers to help others. Soup for the City is scheduled for Nov. 2 at The Tangier, 532 W. Market St. in West Akron.

This event, themed “The Roaring 20s,” will offer soups, breads and desserts prepared by area restaurants. Complimentary cocktails, soft drinks and coffee also will be available. In addition, silent auctions, 50/50 games and oral auctions are planned. Also, the Akron Big Band will provide music for dancing.

Ticket prices are $75 for VIP tickets (early admittance at 5 p.m., themed cocktails and more) and $50 for general admission at 6 p.m. Corporate and individual sponsorships range from $500 to $5,000. For tickets and additional information, visit www.goodsamaritanhungercenter.org.

“The goal of this event is fundraising, but we also take the opportunity to explain to visitors who we are and what we do,” said Kiel of the event.

“We need people to come out and support this event so that we can better serve the community,” Smith added.

Good Samaritan Hunger Center accepts donations of food and funds, and volunteers are needed to help prepare soup at food distribution events, at fundraisers and to rescue food. For more information, visit the website or call 330.864.8520.

Image of Findley Food Distribution
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