Twinsburg, Nordonia schools team up to aid food pantry

April Helms
Kent Weeklies
Students from Twinsburg High School load a truck full of food which was sent to The Emergency Assistance Center during the Fill The Bus campaign last year.

NORTHFIELD CENTER – There is still time to "Fill the Bus" this year for The Emergency Assistance Center.

The event, in its sixth year, runs through Oct. 30. Both districts had, in the past, used this as a friendly competition to fill a school bus with donated nonperishable items. However, Joe Clark, the superintendent of the Nordonia Hills City Schools, said this year that the event was being treated as more of a collaboration.

So far "things were going well" with the collection, said Superintendent Joe Clark. He added that people who were thinking of contributing should consider popular staples such as peanut butter, canned meats, pasta, and canned fruits and vegetables, 

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a perfect storm for The Emergency Assistance Center.

One one hand, “there has definitely been an uptick in residents using our resources,” said Joyce Hunt, the executive director for the center. In August through September alone, there were 169 additional people who asked for food assistance. On the other hand, many of the fundraisers and collections the center has relied on in the past to keep the pantry shelves stocked were cancelled.

“Anything we had scheduled in terms of food drives just stops when the pandemic happened,” Hunt said. “Businesses who would host food drives either closed or had their employees work from home, so they couldn’t help. Churches were closed, so they couldn’t help. We usually get donations at the Memorial Day parade in Northfield, but that was cancelled this year.”

Even trying to purchase items in bulk at the local grocery stores has proven challenging for the center, Hunt said. Board members have gone out to try to purchase perishable items for The Emergency Assistance Center, only to be told “they can’t buy in bulk like they used to.” Hunt herself described a situation where she went to a local store to try to purchase items such as eggs and butter for the pantry.

“I get in the checkout, and the lights came on, and a manager was even called over,” Hunt said. “I had my badge on and everything, and I tried to explain what I was doing, about how I wanted to purchase the eggs as protein, and the manager said I could not buy all of them, then I was limited to four.”

Members of the Nordonia Hills Rotary Club sort through the food donations brought in through the Fill the Bus campaign last year.

The schools at both districts have collection bins in their lobby areas for students, their families and members of the communities to donate unexpired, nonperishable food.

“Now more than ever those who can help are needed to ensure our local families have food on their tables,” Clark said. “The Emergency Assistance Center does incredible work helping the food insecure in our community. I am hopeful that this year's collection is the biggest ever.”

Superintendent Kathryn Powers of the Twinsburg City Schools added that a bin also was set up at the board of education office.

Students from Twinsburg High School help with the food donations collected through the "Fill the Bus" campaign last year. The Twinsburg and Nordonia school districts are working together to collect food for The Emergency Assistance Center.

“Our Virtual Academy students are encouraged to drop off their donations at any of our school's welcome centers or at the board of education office,” Powers said. “If you happen to be a resident without a child in the district and you want to help we sure would accept your donation.”

Powers said that The Emergency Assistance Center is a partner with the district in it’s Paws on Child Hunger program, which starts Nov. 6. Paws on Hunger distributes backpacks filled with “nutritious snacks to enjoy over long weekends,” Powers said. Parents of students in the federal meal program, including the district’s virtual students on the program, will get an opt-in letter from the district’s school principals “within the next week or so.”

“This is a community thing, and it is such a great service to so many of our families here in our community,” Powers said of The Emergency Assistance Center.

Hunt said that the center “has a lot of residents served” in both school districts. Hunt added that the center sees the highest requests for assistance in November and December.

‘We are really counting on this particular food drive to do well to help us sustain through that,” Hunt said.

The Emergency Assistance Center is at 9199 Olde 8 Rd, Ste. C, in Northfield Center. For details, call 330-467-7945 or visit teacenter.org. The website includes a list of suggested items for donation, Hunt said.

Stuff the Ambulance

The Twinsburg Fire Department will have a "Stuff the Ambulance" event Nov. 8 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Giant Eagle parking lot. 

The collection will benefit Our Community Hunger Center,  9733 Ravenna Road in unit G. 

Especially needed are canned soup, canned meat, beans, jarred sauce, chili, cereal and macaroni and cheese.

Monetary donations also are accepted. Checks can be made payable to Our Community Hunger Center.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at ahelms@recordpub.com