We envision a Stark County where a culture of healthy eating creates people who are healthier and communities that are rejuvenated and empowered.
We are connecting growers, consumers, and producers to help create a food system that focuses on making locally-sourced, nutrient-dense, and affordable foods available to everyone in Stark County.
We support learning and teaching opportunities that promote the growing, use, and selling of local foods and assist in the growth of urban agricultural employment.
Where to start? Well, it might make sense to first explain that our non-profit agency has been around in various capacities since 1982 but we didn’t really start focusing on tackling food insecurity and using the name StarkFresh until 2012.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s start our story with a few observations
- Stark County is home to seven USDA-defined “Food Deserts”. Food deserts are defined by the USDA as urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, these communities may have no food access or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options. The lack of access contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.
- More than 70% of all adults in Stark County can be considered overweight or obese, according to the Center for Disease Control
- 15.3% of the population in Stark County (57,730 people) and 23.8% of children (20,650 children) are considered “Food Insecure.” Being food insecure means lacking reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. The USDA defines food insecurity as a state in which “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.” A lack of adequate nutrition affects physical and mental health, life expectancy, the ability to maintain employment, or the capacity for learning in school.
- Stark County’s infant mortality rate is nearly 5 deaths per 1000 live births. In Ohio in 2013, 46.6 percent of infant deaths were caused by a baby being born pre-term or premature (before 37 weeks gestation); 13.8 percent of deaths were caused by birth defects and 15 percent by sleep-related causes such as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and asphyxia. Factors such as smoking, poor nutrition and living in an under-sourced neighborhood increase the risk of infant death, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
When we started the StarkFresh journey, we looked to all the available resources available to our community and realized there were some obvious gaps in the services being offered to our community members.
If you wanted to learn how to create a community garden, there was no one to help.
If you were looking to purchase affordable locally-grown produce in neighborhoods with no grocery store, you were out of luck.
If you wanted to learn gardening techniques in a hands-on manner, there wasn’t a place where you could do that.
If you were interested in attending a cooking/gardening/self-sufficiency class, there was no central location in which those classes could be easily found.
We decided that these were all gaps that had to be filled, so we stepped in and did just that.
StarkFresh is run by two uber-passionate employees, Tom Phillips and Teresa Kaminski.
Along with our Board of Directors and loads of community supporters and volunteers, (we call them StarkFreshians) we make an incredible impact in the food security of those in our community.
We currently have four core programs that we deliver to our community that address these initial challenged that we had identified all those years ago.