CAMPUS KITCHEN TEAMS UP WITH AKRON-CANTON REGIONAL FOODBANK TO HELP FIGHT FOOD INSECURITY IN PORTAGE COUNTY; Kent State Today; December 18, 2020
Kent State University’s inaugural drive-thru food distribution event on Dec. 16 in partnership with the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank served more than 200 households.
The event was also an unofficial kickoff to an impactful partnership. The Campus Kitchen at Kent State teamed up with the food bank to host a contactless food distribution event at Dix Stadium to help those in need and marked the beginning of a multimonth initiative.
The team from the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank reached out to the Campus Kitchen at Kent State after receiving a grant from Feeding America to begin using mobile food pantries. Raven Gayheart, public relations and communications manager for the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, said more than 26,000 people in Portage County face food insecurity – 30% of those seeking assistance for the first time due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
So the burgeoning relationship between the university’s Campus Kitchen and the food bank was a natural fit to launch the initiative. Amanda Woodyard, director of Community Engaged Learning at Kent State, said that this new partnership will also enable the Campus Kitchen at Kent State to increase its services beyond the mobile pantry.
“We will be able to receive free and reduced cost food and toiletry items to further expand the resources we are able to provide through the Campus Kitchen,” Woodyard said.
The distribution event was staffed by volunteers, including Kent State faculty, staff and students, along with Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank CEO Dan Flowers and members of the National Guard.
One volunteer, Kent State Senior Administrator for Community Outreach Justin Hilton, participated in the event with his daughter. He said that the event provided an opportunity to give back to the community in a safe and effective manner.
“It’s convenient to those who need it as well,” Hilton added, saying that the families were able to drive up and the volunteers placed groceries in their trunks for a contactless pickup. “It’s a great cause. It’s a great need. It’s a great organization partnership.”
The event was open to all, not just Portage County residents. Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank Programs Coordinator Cody Stanley said the response was overwhelming for the first event but was an indicator of the growing need in the community.
Stanley added that this mobile food pantry was the first in the region and the food bank is looking to launch others in Stark and Summit counties.
Kent State’s drive-thru food distribution will occur the third Wednesday of every month from now until May 2021 from 1-3 p.m. at Dix Stadium. The next event is scheduled from 1-3 p.m. on Jan. 20 at Dix Stadium. The Campus Kitchen at Kent State also remained open during the university’s holiday closure. Members of the community are welcome to visit the Campus Kitchen at Kent State website to schedule an appointment to visit the food pantry.
WRITTEN BY: NATALIE STEENBOCK AND DEANNA STEVENS