Recently, area Boy Scouts have been busy collecting food.
Last year’s Scouting For Food drive collected enough in Mecklenburg County to feed 12,000 hungry people for one week.
This year they are trying to collect more.
Mark Turner, a scout executive for the Mecklenburg County Boy Scout Council, said that he expects about 6,000 youths, plus plenty of leaders and parents, to be involved this year.
“This is our Good Turn For America, a national program, and we invited all packs and troops in our council to get involved,” Turner said. “This is an example of service to others, the value at the top of the list of values.”
The food drive began on Jan. 26 when area scouts fanned out around the area to distribute 195,000 empty brown paper shopping bags to homes in hundreds of neighborhoods. Fliers attached to the bags asked residents to fill the bags with nonperishable food. On Feb. 2, the scouts returned to those houses to collect the food-filled bags.
Eight drop-off sites, equipped with tractor-trailers, were open to accept the donated food. Scouts at those locations sorted and weighed the food before stacking it in the trailers. Those sites will be open Sunday from 12:30-2:30 p.m. to accept additional donations.
All food collected in Mecklenburg County will be taken to Loaves and Fishes to be distributed to the agency’s 19 food pantries. Food collected by Boy Scouts in Union and Cabarrus counties will go to Second Harvest Food Bank or one of its affiliates.
Loaves and Fishes Executive Director Beverly Howard said the food drive is desperately needed this year. The nonprofit organization provided food for 126,000 people in 2012.
“Last year the Scouting For Food program brought in 255,000 pounds of food. We count on it. It’s the largest food drive we have during the year and it’s so important that it’s successful,” Howard said.
If last year’s numbers are any indication, the food collected by the scouts should be enough to stock the agency for the next few months.
Howard said they first joined forces with the Boy Scouts in the 1990s and the partnership has flourished.
“They came to us and said, ‘We can put feet on the street and we can raise the food, we just don’t know how to give it out.’ Since that’s our area of expertise, it works perfectly,” Howard said.
John Bittinger, senior district executive with the Apache District of the Mecklenburg County Council, said the annual food drive feeds hungry folks and makes a profound difference in the lives of the youth who participate.
“Scouting For Food is teaching these young people that they can make a difference. There’s obviously a need out there, whether it’s their neighbor or someone they go to school with,” he said. “They see that people are hungry and that they can help relieve that hunger. They learn that, working together, they can make a big difference in their community.”
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