CANTON  A group of volunteers saw a growing need in Stark County more than 35 years ago to help thousands of families in the area with food insecurity. With November being National Hunger Awareness month, it makes for a great time to think about helping those in the area that need some extra help with providing food for their families.

Many families, then in 1981, and now in 2016 still need help putting food on the table. That original group of volunteers worked tirelessly for more than 20 years to meet the growing need until it grew too large to manage.

With such powerful growth, the group eventually transformed into the Stark County Hunger Task Force (SCHTF). The organization continues to work to meet the needs of the more than 57,000 people in the county that are food insecure. SCHTF operates 33 food pantries throughout the county and provides free groceries to 28,000 people monthly.

Executive Director Amy Weisbrod said the need is still just as great, especially for the working poor and now for many seniors are experiencing difficult decisions when it come to their finances.

"The working poor in the area are struggling to keep food on the table even with working multiple jobs and we are seeing more and more seniors having to make the decision to purchase prescriptions drugs, visit the doctor or put food on their tables," Weisbrod said.

She said the volunteers in the organization are still the driving force behind SCHTF’s success. With more than 1,000 volunteers throughout the network helping in the pantries, Weisbrod said the organization couldn’t meet the needs without the help of the many dedicated individuals and community partners who give of their time, labor and expertise.

SCHTF recognized all volunteers, pantry network volunteers and outstanding hunger fighters at a Hunger Awareness Month dinner Nov. 10.

"That’s why November is so important," Weisbrod said. "It’s national hunger awareness month which gives us the chance to encourage people to get involved and make donations but it’s also a chance for us to recognize all the work the volunteers do throughout the year.

"What’s been surprising this year is I’ve had donors call or email that they had to stop their donations for now because they are in a financial place where they may have lost a job or the household expenses have grown. I’ve had to ask one donor if he now needed our services after he’s been donating for so many years," she added.

Founded in 1981, Stark County Hunger Task Force at 408 9th St. SW Canton, leads the battle against hunger in Stark County. Operating almost entirely on donations, SCHTF provides free groceries to an average of nearly 28,000 individuals every month through more than 33 food pantries, "Backpacks for Kids" programs and an emergency pantry. For more information, call 330.455.6667 or visit SCHTF the website at www.starkhunger.org.