The holidays are a time to gather with friends and family, enjoy delicious meals and reflect on the previous year. But for those in the Stark County community who struggle with hunger and homelessness, the holidays can leave their stomachs and hearts more empty than usual.
In Stark County, one in six people are food insecure. This includes 25% of children and 10% of seniors. These neighbors don’t have regular access to healthy, nutritional food. When it’s time to get groceries, they may have to choose between feeding their family or paying for medical or utility bills.
The rate of poverty is 14.5% in Stark County. For some people, this can lead to homelessness. Other factors include low paying jobs, high medical bills, the inability to afford housing, taking care of elderly parents or disabled family members, and being a survivor of domestic violence. Without a safe place to stay or nutritious food, the holiday season can be extra difficult.
Thankfully, there are community organizations and resources to help during this time. In 2018, Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank provided 6.3 million meals – including 1.8 million pounds of free produce – to people in Stark County. And, each month, Stark County Hunger Task Force’s pantry network supplies groceries to more than 30,000 residents. They also offer a hotline for emergency food assistance. By calling 2-1-1, they will locate the nearest food pantry.
Those in need of a hot meal can go to places such as Alliance Hope Organizations, Rising Hope Canton or Salvation Army Alliance Corps. Please note that the times and days of the week vary for when meals are offered. Thanksgiving Baskets Downtown and A Community Christmas offer holiday-specific food programs.
For those struggling to find a place to stay – especially during Ohio winters – the Stark County Homeless Hotline can help. The number is (330) 452-4363 and can be called 24 hours a day. Places like Alliance Emergency Residence, YWCA of Canton, Refuge of Hope, Family Living Center and other shelters in Stark County offer emergency shelter and support for finding more permanent housing solutions.
No matter which holidays someone celebrates during the winter season, the feeling of loneliness and hunger can affect anyone. Reach out today to get help. Or, if you’re interested in helping the community during the holidays, contact the resources throughout this post for volunteer opportunities. Organizations such as Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank and Homeless Continuum of Care of Stark County are always looking for people to get involved.