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Demand is down at food banks, but support is still needed

food bank help
Posted at 9:14 PM, Nov 22, 2021

AKRON, Ohio — The holiday season means busy season at area foodbanks, and the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank is no exception.

Dan Flowers, the Foodbank’s CEO, said that’s not because the need for food rises at the holidays, but because the Foodbank and its partners do more outreach.

“I think that's always stemmed from the fact that, around the community and in the hearts of people, there's a concern to make sure that folks have a meal to gather around at Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Flowers said.

Flowers emphasized that the Foodbank is not in “crisis mode.”

“I think what we're doing is doing what we always do, swimming upstream,” Flowers said. “If it wasn't for people donating food and money to us, we wouldn't be here at all. So, you know, you can never stop holding your breath in this business, there's no doubt about it. We completely depend on generosity.”

Flowers said distribution of food is down this year, with less demand than there was in 2020 throughout the pandemic. But he said food has also been harder to come by because of supply-chain issues and complications in the grocery industry.

“The overall distribution this year looks a lot like 2019 in terms of demand for emergency food,” Flowers said. “Last year, we just went off the rails. I mean, it was the biggest year ever, at every food bank in the country last year, essentially.”

He noted that the Foodbank had 7,000 turkeys for Thanksgiving this year, almost all of which are now distributed after events and outreach last week.

“By Monday of Thanksgiving week, you know, you got to get those birds distributed so they can start thawing out,” Flowers said. “It takes a couple of days to thaw out. We have some big turkeys this year. I think we had a number of them were 12, 13 pound turkeys and of course, we had to order those back during the second quarter.”

Flowers also noted that donations are down, and part of that is due to material shortages. For instance, he said with aluminum and steel shortages, it was difficult to come by canned foods and they cost more.

“Food manufacturers are trying to bring the products that they can get made to market. When demand is really high in the market overall, there's problems and disruptions in the supply chain, there's just going to be less products available to donate to your local food bank. And so we've had a really hard time finding food,” he said.

The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank does not offer a Thanksgiving Day meal, but it does supply local charities and agencies with food to get it to people at their homes.

For anyone wondering about how to get food from the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, or for those interested in volunteering at or supporting the Foodbank, Flowers urged people to visit the website.

“All I can say is that it's been a tough year,” Flowers said. “We persevered under a really wild set of dynamics, like every business and every organization and individuals. We still rely on community support. We need that support and we won’t be able to keep going without it.”

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