The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank kicked off its 23rd annual Harvest for Hunger campaign Wednesday, announcing an aggressive goal to raise more than $1 million and collect 100,000 pounds of food.



“This organization is gaining more and more scale each year and really moving the needle on poverty and hunger,” food bank President and Chief Executive Officer Dan Flowers said at the opening event inside the agency’s warehouse in Akron.



The Harvest for Hunger campaign — a collaborative effort of food banks in Akron, Cleveland, Lorain and Youngstown — is the agency’s largest fundraiser.



Over the next two months, the organization, with help from member agencies, schools, community groups and businesses, wants to raise $1,035,000.



That’s $35,000 more than its previous goal, but also less than the $1,058,543 that the agency raised last year.



Each $1 raised provides four meals for those in need, meaning Harvest for Hunger would bring in $4 million worth of food if the goal is reached.



The local food bank supports about 500 food pantries in an eight-county area that includes Summit, Medina, Portage, Stark and Wayne.



More than 223,000 people in the food bank’s territory face “food insecurity,” food bank spokeswoman Kat Pestian said.



Shannon Collins, who handles resource development at Pregnancy Care in Akron, said the Harvest for Hunger campaign is vital for her agency’s pantry.



Pregnancy Care helps about 30 people a week with food and also serves a hot meal once a week for another 40 individuals.



“I can’t do what I do without the food bank,” Collins said.



This year, people also will be able to drink coffee and support the campaign at the same time.



Nervous Dog Coffee Bar & Roaster, which has locations in Akron and Stow, is selling a special bag of coffee beans with the food bank logo for $12.95.



The orange bag was designed by the agency and features the phrase, “Coffee with a Purpose. Each bag provides 8 meals.”



The bag is available at Nervous Dog locations and online at http://shop.nervousdogtoo.org.



Soon it also will be sold at area stores, owner Michael Litt said.



“We like that [the food bank] supports everybody, and its mission and values are in line with ours,” Litt said about why the business is supporting Harvest for Hunger.



This year’s campaign is being chaired by Sandridge Food Corp. President Bill Franz, US Foods President Shawn McCall and Shearer’s Foods Chairman and Chief Executive Officer C.J. Fraleigh.



For more details about the effort, go to www.akroncantonfoodbank.org.



Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com.