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CANTON - A caravan of 17 yellow school buses cruised north on Interstate 77 the morning of May 1 headed to Akron.
Instead of students, the buses were loaded with boxes and boxes of donated food for the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.
The convoy represented the culmination of the inaugural "Hunger: The Bus Stops Here" fundraising drive that included the R.G. Drage Career Technical Center and 21 districts from Stark, Carroll, Summit, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties who are members of the Stark County Educational Service Center.
Lined up from the district located the farthest away from Akron (Carrollton) to the closest (Green), most of the buses were at least half full of donations. Some Stark County districts, such as Plain, Marlington, Perry and Jackson, stuffed nearly every seat available. The Strasburg-Franklin Local School District also brought some school spirit to the trip by adorning its bus with two large banners that read, "Stop Hunger."
In all, the schools donated 29,296 pounds of food, which equates to 24,413 meals, and $7,052 in monetary donations that will provide thousands of additional meals.
Stark County Superintendent Joe Chaddock said he was happy to see the support from the area school districts.
"This is a great thing," he said. "It's great to highlight the need for our communities."
The districts' donations will go toward the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank's Harvest for Hunger campaign, which is its largest annual fundraising initiative. The Foodbank hopes to collect 100,000 pounds of food and raise $1.25 million this year.
Figures from the regional Foodbank show that nearly 1 in 4 children in classrooms across its eight-county service area likely will face hunger this year. National studies have shown children who lack regular access to nutritional food are at a higher risk for chronic illness and behavioral problems and are more likely to fall behind in school.
This year's Harvest for Hunger campaign is being led by Jim Porter, publisher of The Canton Repository and The Massillon Independent and general manager of the Alliance Review; and Mark Cohen, publisher of the Akron Beacon Journal.
The district collected the food and monetary donations were: Alliance, Brown Local, Canton City, Canton Local, Carrollton, Dalton, Fairless, Green, Jackson, Lake, Marlington, Massillon, Minerva, North Canton, Northwest, Osnaburg, Perry, Plain, R. G. Drage, Sandy Valley, Strasburg-Franklin and Tuslaw.
For more information about the Harvest for Hunger campaign, visit akroncantonfoodbank.org.