MEDINA — Using money it raised at its Season’s Harvest event, the Medina County Farm Bureau presented Feeding Medina County a check for $38,415 on Wednesday.
The $100-a-plate harvest dinner was held in August at Barn Talk Hops Farm in Wadsworth. The personal meal auctioned off by chef John Kolar, owner of Thyme2 restaurant in Medina, raised $30,000, said the Farm Bureau’s Debbie Indoe.
The annual event is such a big draw in the community that each year the giving grows.
This year’s nearly $40,000 figure is significantly higher than the $22,000 raised in 2017 and the $20,000 raised in 2016.
Many members of the Farm Bureau, whose mission is to forge a partnership between farmers and consumers, were on hand Wednesday at Feeding Medina County’s new location, 650 W. Smith Road, C-8. They helped pack weekender bags for children.
Children enrolled in the national free and reduced lunch programs are given bags of food to take home over the weekend. The bags contain three meals and snacks. The goal is for these children to show up Monday morning hungry for learning instead of food.
Sandy Hinkle, executive director of Feeding Medina County, said one in five children in Medina County is food insecure.
Her nonprofit organization delivers the weekend bags to 32 locations in the county, including every elementary school, Head Start and Medina County Board of Developmental Disabilities facility. The children take the bags home with them on Friday.
Hinkle said the weekender bags cost her organization $3.62 apiece. She figures each bag is worth about $12 to $14.
Barb Villoni, of Lafayette Township, has been a volunteer coordinator since Feeding Medina County’s inception in 2011.
“I help set up the bags and count the bags,” she said. “I’ll coordinate what we pack.”
She said Feeding Medina County packs about 1,000 bags each weekend.
Villoni said donations increase during the holidays.
“People think they only have to eat on the holidays,” she said.
Children aren’t the only ones getting food. Feeding Medina County claims that 16 percent of the seniors in the county are low income or don’t qualify for assistance. In its Staples for Seniors program, monthly deliveries of about 30 pounds of food, including meat, fresh produce, shelf-stable food and dairy products are given to residents in subsidized housing facilities across the county.
They pack about 350 bags for the seniors each month.
Feeding Medina County recently moved to its new 7,000-square-foot location. Previously, it was housed in a 2,200-square foot building
“We could fit that (old) building in here,” Feeding Medina County office manager Melody Costello said.
It also received a 12-by-12-foot walk-in freezer from Sandridge Foods to store its frozen goods. The freezer cost $23,000.
“We’re very grateful,” Hinkle said.
Feeding Medina County is storing 23 hogs and three cows, as well as some lambs and goats it got from livestock auctions from the Medina County Fair. Chick Master rents Feeding Medina County the garden space that it tills, plants and picks, which results in 3,000 pounds of produce donated to the senior centers.
Later Wednesday, Feeding Medina County collected turkeys at the Medina County Courthouse. Last year, it collected about 200 turkeys, Hinkle said.
The turkeys were distributed Thursday at the weekly food giveaway at the Medina County Fairgrounds. The Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank brings about 20,000 pounds of food to be given away. About 150 to 200 families will be fed.
Hinkle is working on a new project. Feeding Medina County opened a food pantry at Cloverleaf High School in an old closet.
“If kids are hungry, they can grab something to eat,” Costello said.
Hinkle wants to open a food pantry in each high school in the county.
Twice a week, Feeding Medina County trucks drive to the Regional Food Bank in Akron to pick up food, which is distributed to 24 food pantries in the county.