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Flashes Fighting Hunger takes on food insecurity

Bristol Lily
Volunteers sort through items on Feb. 9, 2024, at the Flashes Fighting Hunger pantry in the Tai-towers rotunda.

Normally the university is against fighting, except when it comes to the fight against hunger.

Since 2017, the university has operated Flashes Fighting Hunger, a food pantry for students and community members.

Flashes Fighting Hunger sets up twice a week in the Tri-towers rotunda, and students can visit once each week. Receiving help is as simple as filling out a form, scheduling an appointment or doing a drop-in visit. The pantry provides students with basic items such as bread, fruits, vegetables, canned goods, spices and toiletries.

While Flashes Fighting Hunger only served a few dozen people when it first opened on campus, this grew to 2,046 people in 2023. Not only has Flashes Fighting Hunger grown in the number of people served, but it also helped other pantries, such as the CARES Center, provide alternative pantry options for students and the community.

The food pantry thrives off of donations, student support and the common goal of ending food insecurity.

“Partnership with the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank has been really helpful in us being able to meet the needs,” said Amanda Paulus, the senior director of Community Engaged Learning.

Paulus also said some donations come from local businesses, a partnership with Trader Joe’s in Woodmere, Ohio, and the university’s dining services.

“This is food that serves a purpose by nourishing bodies and not ending up in a landfill,” Paulus said.

With shelves stocked, there was one last hurdle that Flashes Fighting Hunger had to take on: Who will distribute the food? The simple answer was students.

In 2023, “students served 12,400 guests at our pantry program,” Paulus said. She added that students also served over 1,000 hours that year.

“I feel like working at the food pantry is very fulfilling for me,” said Kalena Speicher, an AmeriCorps member within Community Engaged Learning. “Seeing the reactions of our patrons and just hearing their stories really makes what we do worth it.”

With the pantry receiving so much food, not all of it gets consumed on campus. The pantry donates some of its surplus food to organizations like Kent Social Services and Kentway Apartments. 

In 2023, the pantry brought in 152,223 lbs of food, and of this food 1.64% was said to be food waste. This food waste was often donated to local farms and used to feed animals, Paulus said. 

For more information on Flashes Fighting Hunger and its services click here.

Bristol Lily is a reporter. Contact them at [email protected].

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    L.ChananaFeb 23, 2024 at 6:41 pm

    GREAT article! My child volunteers weekly for this very worthwhile program for the past 3 yrs. FFH always welcomes anyone to help get the word out of this great resource on campus as many still don’t know about it.