The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank kicked off the 28th annual Harvest for Hunger campaign Tuesday morning, saying it wants to raise $1.32 million and collect 100,000 pounds of food this year.

The goal of the campaign, which runs through the end of April, is to provide more than 5.3 million meals to needy individuals and families in the region.

Harvest for Hunger serves as the nonprofit's largest fundraiser, last year helping the agency hand out $38 million worth of food.

"This is money that people ... did not have to spend and they were able to buy their kids' shoes and pay their heating bill and get prescription drugs and all of the other things that people struggle every day in their life to be able to accomplish," food bank President and Chief Executive Officer Dan Flowers told a crowd of about 500 people gathered for the kickoff breakfast at the John S. Knight Center in downtown Akron.

Last year's campaign raised nearly $1.3 million. When combined with food donations, a total of 5.3 million meals was raised last year, surpassing the previous goal of 5.2 million meals, the nonprofit said.

The food bank said 100 percent of every dollar donated goes to providing free food in the community and each dollar can provide four meals. It also accepts donations of food and volunteer time.

The food bank noted that the Check Out Hunger, which involves people being able to donate at the checkout at local grocery stores, runs March 10 through April 20. This year, there's also a new "Week of Giving" April 1-7 that features special events, such as celebrities bagging groceries at the supermarkets April 6.

Harvest for Hunger is a collaboration among the Akron-Canton agency, Greater Cleveland Food Bank, Second Harvest Food Bank of Mahoning Valley and the Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio.

Lesa Miller and Terry Lindeman, who work with the Doylestown Community Food Cupboard and attended the breakfast, said their organization relies on the food bank for help. It has been affiliated with the Akron-based agency for two years.

"We are able to give out so much more than in the past," Miller said.

Lindeman added: "It's made a tremendous impact on the needs in our community."

Dr. Brian Harte, president of Cleveland Clinic Akron General, and Robert Roland, managing partner at Day Ketterer, are serving as co-chairs of the campaign. At the kickoff breakfast, former NFL player and ESPN Radio host Jerod Cherry served as the emcee, while Flowers' brother David Flowers provided an inspirational talk about caring for others.

Harte said Cleveland Clinic Akron General, Akron Children's Hospital and Summa Health are holding a competition called "Compete to Eat" this year to see which hospital system can raise more for the campaign.

"It's going to be really gratifying for us at Akron General to watch and see which of them comes in second," he said, as the audience laughed.

The event ended with a performance by the Buchtel high school marching band.

The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank provides food for nearly 500 food pantries, shelters and other programs in Carroll, Holmes, Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties. The food bank estimates that 1 in 7 people suffer from food insecurity in the region.

For more information about the Harvest for Hunger campaign, go to: www.akroncantonfoodbank.org/hfh.

 

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.