If there’s one thing that Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank President and CEO Dan Flowers made clear Friday at the Harvest for Hunger Campaign Celebration, it’s that people are willing to get creative to raise food and funds for the hungry.

There’s the FirstEnergy executive who brought his secret-recipe chili — it contained cinnamon, Flowers revealed. And the volunteers who shaved their heads, took a pie in the face or jumped in ice-cold waters. And the 20-bus caravan that delivered donations from schools in Stark County.

“For everybody who carried in a crockpot or took a pie in the face or shaved your head or jumped in a frozen lake, I want to send you some love,” Flowers said.

He spoke at the organization’s headquarters on Opportunity Parkway in Akron, where about 100 volunteers were assembled to learn whether the annual hunger campaign — which started Feb. 26 — had reached its goal of 5.3 million meals and to be acknowledged for their efforts.

Dr. Brian Harte, president of Cleveland Clinic Akron General and a co-chairman of the campaign, announced that the food bank had raised 5,292,016 meals in its 2019 Harvest for Hunger campaign — 143,000 pounds of food and $1.29 million to buy food.

Robert Roland, managing partner of Canton law firm Day Ketterer and campaign co-chairman, commended the food bank’s staff for its efforts.

“The staff does everything and they are amazing,” Roland said.

Gregory R. Falstick, food drive coordinator for the National Association of Letter Carriers, Branch 148, said the 27th annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive raised about 38,000 pounds of food in his territory of Akron, Tallmadge and Mogadore.

“We see a huge difference in collections this year,” Falstick said.

On a national level, the NALC drive collects an average of 70 million pounds of food per year.

"It's the biggest food drive in the country," he said.

Flowers said that despite the economic recovery of recent years, the urgency of the food bank's mission has not declined for the area's hungry.

According to a report released in early May by the food bank, food insecurity in the eight-county region is 13.5 percent, higher than the national average of 12.5 percent. Food insecurity for children in the region is even higher at 19.3 percent.

“It was a big goal and the fact that the community rallied around it … is always a special thing,” Flowers said.

Alan Ashworth can be reached at 330-996-3859 or aashworth@thebeaconjournal.com. Go to @newsalanbeaconjournal to follow him on Twitter.