AKRON -- The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank reported that they reached a bittersweet milestone as they passed 18 million pounds of food distributed in 2009 several weeks before year-end. That is the equivalent of 13.5 million meals provided for those in need during this time of increased demand for food caused by the economy. Last year, the Foodbank distributed 16 million pounds of food.

Journey's End Ministries in Newcomerstown receives food for its foodbank at the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.

The Foodbank has been able to meet the increased need by developing new community partnerships, relying on increases in federal and state food allotments for Foodbanks, and by securing increased donations from local community businesses and individuals.

"The strong support of our community and our elected officials has allowed the Foodbank to keep pace with the unprecedented increase in the need for food," said Dan Flowers, president and CEO of the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. "We are creating new community partnerships and working with our existing member agencies to reach out to the thousands of people who need food in our communities."

One other stunning new trend has been the addition of the most new agencies joining the foodbank in one year since its inception in 1982. More than 90 new community organizations have joined the Foodbank as member agencies in 2009. The foodbank provides training to these organizations to help build capacity and improve efficiency to get more food quickly to families in need.

While the economy may seem to be making a recovery, there are many people still out of work or who have taken jobs that do not earn enough to pay for the cost of winter utility bills, medical expenses, and housing costs. More than 48 percent of clients served by the foodbank's member agencies reported having to make a choice between paying for food or utilities.

The foodbank needs the continued support from the community to meet anticipated rises in demand for food as the new year arrives. Donations can be made online at www.akroncantonfoodbank.org through December 31 to receive tax deductions for 2009.

The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank is a non-profit organization committed to ending hunger by providing food and other essential products to more than 430 community organizations that operate food pantries, hot meal sites and other hunger relief programs in Carroll, Holmes, Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties. In 2008, the foodbank distributed over 16 million pounds of food, providing 11.5 million meals locally for people in need.