Community Harvest and Foodbank to merge to expand hunger-relief efforts in Stark County

November 21, 2016

The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank and Community Harvest are merging into one organization with a greater capacity of serving those struggling with hunger in Stark County. The boards of both nonprofits have signed letters of intent and expect the merger to take effect January 1, 2017.

Community Harvest was one of the first non-profit groups in the country to establish an innovative food rescue program, designed to increase the involvement of the restaurant and food service industry by collecting excess prepared and perishable food and donating it to community groups serving the homeless and the hungry. The benefit is twofold – it feeds the growing number of Stark County residents unable to otherwise have a hot meal while preventing food from being wasted. The merger will expand the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank’s abilities to reach further into the Stark County community served by Community Harvest’s food rescue program.

“Community Harvest is tremendously grateful for the Foodbank’s and our community’s support through the years,” said Faith Barbato, executive director of Community Harvest. “We think daily about the one in four children in our community who live in households that experience hunger. By joining forces, our combined organization will provide more food than ever before. Together, our programs at Community Harvest will continue as before, but as part of the incredible work of the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.”

For approximately three decades both the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank and Community Harvest have independently operated as flagship hunger-relief organizations, but they shared a common goal: feeding the hungry by providing low-cost or free food to a network of food panties, hot meal programs, and shelters. However, the two organizations have different and complimentary approaches.

The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank was formed in 1982 by a group of community leaders who made a commitment to provide emergency food to our neighbors in need. Today, the Foodbank provides food and other essential items to member hunger-relief programs in eight Northeast Ohio counties: Carroll, Holmes, Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit, Tuscarawas and Wayne. These member programs operate nearly 500 food pantries, hot meal sites, shelters and other hunger-relief programs in the neighborhoods and communities where people need food. The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank has focused on collecting surplus shelf-stable and refrigerated products from the grocery industry as well as sourcing fresh produce and commodities from local famers and national sources.

“The Foodbank and Community Harvest share the same goal, so formally teaming up is a natural step,” said Dan Flowers, president & CEO of the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. “While the Foodbank’s operations won’t change, we’re confident this merger will drive efficiencies while creating new energy and innovation centered on unique ways of solving hunger in our community.”

Grant funding received from the W. Henry Hoover Fund at Stark Community Foundation, The Paul & Carol David Foundation, and Sisters of Charity Foundation of Canton will support the implementation of the merger. The grant was awarded as a result of the Stark Community Foundation’s Future of Food Security county assessment and future framework for change in a second round of funding to address food security.


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