Flashes Fighting Hunger offers twice a week food drive

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Taylor Haydu

Nathan Ritchey (right) and volunteers packing up a visitor’s food.

Taylor Haydu Reporter

Flashes Fighting Hunger organizes food drives Wednesday and Friday afternoons to battle food insecurity in the community.

The food is provided through partnerships and donations from stores and food banks such as Trader Joes, the Akron Canton Regional Food Bank and University Culinary Services, with options changing often. Visitors have access to protein such as Italian sausages and fish, produce such as prepackaged salads and peppers and dry goods like ramen.

“We are a choice pantry, meaning that people get to pick out specific items that they want to get,” said Nathan Ritchey, the group’s general manager. “So we set up different categories or boxes and basically they get an option out of each box. Overall, this gives guests a little bit more autonomy.”

The food drive serves people with varying dietary restrictions and needs. Pescatarian, kosher and vegetarian options are available. Options include vegan pepperoni, kosher meats and Impossible meat.

The group strives to provide visitors with a healthy and balanced diet no matter their conditions.

“A lot of guests we serve are students and some of them don’t have access to be able to cook a lot of veggies and things like that. So within that, it’s kind of tough to give them balanced meals,”  Ritchey said. “But we tried to do that through frozen goods. We are trying to give them some of the nutritional value of vegetables without having them actually cook it.”

Food insecurity is the state of not having reliable access to enough healthy food that you can afford, according to The Oxford Dictionary.

In 2019, the overall food insecurity rate was the lowest it had been in more than 20 years, the nonprofit Feeding America stated. However, a study by Northwestern University found that this number has jumped significantly since March 2020, with some estimating the rate has doubled.

The Crisis, Advocacy, Resources, Education and Support Center has case managers who work to connect students to on-and-off campus resources in four main areas, one of which is food insecurity.  

“I think last week, we got 25-30 new referrals,” said Brenda Schmucker, one of the center’s case managers. “I meet with anywhere from three to five students a day, sometimes more.” 

Students in need can get connected with a case manager by submitting an online referral form. In 24 business hours, a case manager will make contact and introduce the next steps.

“Any student can access food pantries, apply for meal swipes through Swipe Out Hunger or get referred to SNAP,” Schmucker said.

SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of people in need so they can purchase healthy food and move toward self-sufficiency.

The Flashes Fighting Hunger food drive is appointment only 3 p.m.-5:50 p.m. and walk-ins are welcome 5:30 p.m.-6 p.m. 

Students who don’t need to use these services can assist the CARES Center by contributing to CARES Basic Needs Student Fund and Flashes Fighting Hunger through volunteering. 

The group has upcoming volunteer shifts available. If interested, more information can be found on their website.

Taylor Haydu is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected]