For community members who are food insecure, concerns about the needs of their pets come to the fore. Some may go without food themselves to ensure their pets get a meal, or they may share their human food with their animals. Some may give away a beloved animal to friends or family, or even deliver them to a shelter in times of struggle.
The Humane Society of Summit County (HSSC) works to create a compassionate community, for both animals and humans. To help community members struggling to feed their pets, HSSC has launched a new program to distribute emergency supplies of pet food to local food stores. The goal is to support neighbors who own pets through short- and long-term financial challenges.
In December 2020, through a generous grant from the County of Summit and the Akron Community Foundation, made available through federal CARES Act funding, HSSC provided more than 25,000 pounds of dry dog and cat food to Summit County food stores through a pilot program . Partner stores distributed all the food, a month’s supply for nearly 3,000 pets, to Summit County residents in need in just a few weeks. The need for these services is not isolated and fast food stores are asking for more on behalf of their customers.
In response to this need, HSSC officially launched the Pet Food Pantry Program in June to provide more than 4,000 pounds of food supplies on a monthly basis to nine food pantries in the region: First Congregational Church of Akron, Heart 4 the City Food Pantry (Akron), Open M (Akron) ), Community Hunger Center (Twinsburg), The Sanctuary Chruch of Akron (Kenmore), Emergency Assistance Center (Northfield), Barberton Area Community Ministries, and Good Neighbors (Akron and Cuyahoga Falls sites). Each food store accepts new customers, but those in need are advised to check store locations for eligibility guidelines and opening hours and to call ahead for availability.
HSSC source food served to stores through several methods. Grant money was recently awarded by Adopt, the Orr Foundation, and the Samuel Rhys Willis Foundation to distribute 9,000 pounds of food through the program.
Working with partner retailers and manufacturers, HSSC buys food in bulk for less than retail cost. Supplies are also collected from Summit County retailers who generously donate damaged or discontinued products. In addition, members of the community buy and donate pet food for this purpose.
HSSC accepts dry dog and cat food of any brand and bags of any size, including open and damaged packaging, to be distributed through this programme. Pet food can be donated at the shelter at 7996 Darrow Road in Twinsburg year-round or at WBNX-TV at 2690 State Road in Cuyahoga Falls during November and December.
Donations to benefit the program are also accepted directly and may be made in person at the Humane Society or online at www.summithumane.org/PetFoodPantryDonation. Manufacturers and retailers wishing to donate can call 330-487-0333 ext. 244 to arrange the receipt of donations. In its first year, the goal of the program will be to provide a monthly supply of food to 6,000 pets–more than 40,000 pounds.
Cindy Browning, Humane Society Board Member of Summit County and volunteer at First Congregational Church pantry, appreciates the impact of the Pet Food Pantry on both sides. She shares: “A lot of our FCC shepherds have pets – for some, this is their only family. It’s hard to ask for help for yourself, but I know if they can’t afford food for themselves, they struggle to support their pets, and they often share What little they have with their pets.”
HSSC Central Services offers rescue and rehabilitation for neglected and abused animals from Summit County and adoption services to match deserving pets with loving families. In keeping with its mission to create a more compassionate and humane community for all, HSSC also provides various services to meet the needs of owned pets and their families. In addition to the Pet Food Pantry program, HSSC offers a program at Summit County Elementary Schools called “No More Bullying!” It will soon offer low-cost spay/neuter services and pet vaccinations through MABEL, the organization’s new mobile veterinary clinic.
“Through the Pet Food Pantry program, we hope to provide a source of nutrition for the whole family, both human and animal, so that no one goes hungry to feed their pets. This program helps ensure that all family members, two- and four-legged, have access to the resources More than anything, we hope to keep families together, says Dianne Johnson Owens, President/CEO of HSSC.
Individuals who require food for their pets are encouraged to contact partner food stores to determine eligibility and distribution procedures. A list of partner stores and contact information is available online at www.summithumane.org/petfood. Community pet food is not available at the Humane Society of Summit County at this time. Food stores wishing to participate in pet food distribution are encouraged to contact the Humane Society of Summit County for more information at 330-487-0333 ext. 244.