The Akron warehouse is bustling with activity: Forklifts buzzing across the floor. Boxes stacked neatly by the loading area. Vans lined side by side to take deliveries.
CEO Daniel Flowers shows it all off with a clear sense of pride and accomplishment. He just wishes he wasn't so busy. Yes, a CEO who wishes supply outpaced demand.
"We have had a steady increase in the number of people who seek emergency food assistance," Flowers tells a visitor.
It is impossible not to be impressed by the operation. Flowers is president and CEO of the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank, which now operates out of what once was a beer distributorship.
It is also impossible not to be numbed by the numbers: More than 2 million people in Ohio -- 18% of the state population -- face what the government terms food insecurity. That means they go hungry or are not able to maintain normal and consistent eating patterns because they cant afford it.
The Akron-Canton facility serves eight counties and reaches about 180,000 people. Strikingly, about 45% of those who get help don't qualify for government assistance because they work and don't meet government income guidelines, but they still don't make enough money to make ends meet.
Akron is in Ohio's Summit County, a blue-collar battleground within perhaps the 2012 campaign's defining battleground state.
The experience of the food bank -- and the charities it helps -- mirror the campaign economic debate: Are things better off than they were when President Barack Obama took office in 2009?
Flowers said demand at the food bank is higher than ever, which could be seen as evidence that things have not gotten better in this swing state. But, one could look at it this way: back in 2008 and 2009, demand grew 25% from year to year. This year it is up 3% from last year.
"It is almost a sad fact that that feels like a win -- that it is not so bad," Flowers told CNN during a visit on Tuesday -- just 98 days, or 14 weeks, until the November election.
Obama is returning to the area Wednesday -- his ninth campaign visit to Ohio this year -- and his team can make a statistical case that the state is in better shape.
In Summit County, for example, the unemployment rate is 7% -- down from 9.3% when the president took office.
Republicans argue GOP Gov. John Kasich deserves credit more than the Democratic president, but their bigger push is to make the case the recovery would be stronger if not for an administration they say stifles job creation with regulation and new mandates like the Obama health care law.
"The president's not only demonstrated that he tends toward more of a government-oriented solution toward the economy, but Gov. Romney has proven firsthand he knows how to create jobs," state Sen. Frank LaRose told CNN during a visit to a Mitt Romney campaign Summit County office in Stow, where a dozen GOP volunteers were making voter calls.
The strategy of the swing states
Ohio is a fascinating county-by-county chess game.
Republicans don't expect to carry Summit County, for example, but Romney won't have a prayer statewide unless he improves on Sen. John McCain's weak 41% performance here in 2008.
With so much TV ad money being spent here, LaRose argues there will be a "saturation point," and that Ohio in the end will be decided on the strength of grassroots organizing.
"In '08, that enthusiasm wasn't there as much as it could have been," LaRose said. "I get calls all the time from people that say, 'What can I do to help Romney win?'"
And what does he say to those turned off by the already nasty campaign?
"I tell them that's like saying, 'I don't get involved in the weather.' It's going to effect you."
The president's recent "you didn't build it" remark that the Romney campaign characterizes as an insult to entrepreneurs and small businesses plays heavily in the GOP strategy now.
Pawlenty: 'Obama is all foam and no beer'
Ohio is full of small towns and medium-sized cities -- like Akron and Dayton -- where Romney and his surrogates make the case that remark, and the Obama record, prove the president sees government as a stronger force than the private sector.
Most Republicans here push for Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman to share the ticket with Romney. But former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty had an Ohio audition of sorts while the candidate was overseas this week.