For community members struggling with food insecurity, concerns over their pets’ needs are at the forefront. Some may go without food themselves to ensure their pets have a meal, or they may share their human food with their animals. Some may even relinquish a beloved animal to friends or family, or even surrender 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 people. 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 pantries. The goal is to support pet-owning neighbors through short and long-term financial challenges.
In December 2020, through a generous grant from the County of Summit and Akron Community Foundation, made available through federal CARES Act funding, HSSC provided over 25,000 pounds of dry dog and cat food to Summit County food pantries through a pilot program. Partner pantries distributed all the food, a month’s supply for nearly 3,000 pets, to in-need Summit County residents within only a few weeks. The need for these services is not isolated and food pantries quickly requested more on behalf of their clients.
In response to this need, HSSC officially launched The Pet Food Pantry Program in June to provide over 4,000 pounds of food supplies on a monthly basis to nine area food pantries: First Congregational Church of Akron, Heart 4 the City Food Pantry (Akron), Open M (Akron), Our Community Hunger Center (Twinsburg), The Sanctuary Chruch of Akron (Kenmore), The Emergency Assistance Center (Northfield), Barberton Area Community Ministries, and Good Neighbors (Akron and Cuyahoga Falls locations). Each food pantry is accepting new clients, but those in need are advised to check pantry websites for eligibility guidelines and hours and to call ahead for availability.
HSSC sources the food provided to pantries through several avenues. Grant funds were recently awarded by Adopt-a-Pet.com, the Orr Foundation, and Samuel Reese Willis Foundation to distribute 9,000 pounds of food through the program.
Working with partner retailers and manufacturers, HSSC purchases food in bulk below retail cost. Supplies are also collected from Summit County retailers who generously donate damaged or discontinued products. Additionally, community members charitably purchase and donate pet food for this purpose.
HSSC accepts dry dog and cat food of any brand and any size bag, including open and damaged packages, to be distributed through this program. Donations of pet food can be made at the shelter located at 7996 Darrow Road in Twinsburg year-round or at WBNX-TV at 2690 State Road in Cuyahoga Falls during November and December.
Monetary donations to directly benefit the program are also accepted and may be made in person at the Humane Society or online at www.summithumane.org/PetFoodPantryDonation. Manufacturers and retailers who wish to donate may contact 330-487-0333 ext. 244 to arrange for a donation pickup. In its first year, the goal of the program will be to provide a month’s supply of food to 6,000 pets – over 40,000lbs.
Cindy Browning, a member of the Humane Society of Summit County Board of Directors and volunteer at First Congregational Church’s food pantry, appreciates the impact of the Pet Food Pantry Program from both sides. She shares: “So many of our patrons at FCC have pets – for some, it is their only family. It is hard enough to ask for help for yourself, but I know if they can’t afford food for themselves, they are struggling to provide for their pets, and often they are sharing what little they have with their pets.”
HSSC‘s central services are providing rescue and rehabilitation for abandoned 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 provides a program at Summit County elementary schools called “No More Bullying!” and, will soon be offering low-cost spay/neuter services and pet vaccines through MABEL, the organization’s new Mobile Veterinary Clinic.
“Through the Pet Food Pantry Program, we hope to provide a source of nourishment to all members of the family, human and animal alike, so that no one must go hungry to keep their pet fed. This program helps to ensure all members of families, 2- and 4-legged, have the food resources they need. More than anything, we hope to keep families together,” says Diane Johnson-Owens, president/CEO of HSSC.
Individuals who are in need of food for their pets are encouraged to contact partner food pantries to determine eligibility and distribution procedures. A list of partner pantries and contact information is available online at www.summithumane.org/petfood. Pet food for the community is not available at the Humane Society of Summit County at this time. Food pantries that wish to partner to distribute pet food are encouraged to contact the Humane Society of Summit County for more information at 330-487-0333 ext. 244.