An estimated 4,000 scouts from 200 Boy Scout troops and packs are expected to hit the streets across the state Saturday in the first step to collecting non-perishable food items for the Rhode Island Community Food Bank and local food pantries.
This is the Narragansett Council Boy Scouts of America’s 26th year of conducting the Scouting for Food drive. According to Mike Brown, head of the Narragansett Council, the Boy Scouts have collected 8 billion pounds of food since the collection started. He expects this will be the scouts’ largest food drive as well.
“It’s important for a couple of reasons; one, it brings hundreds of thousands of pounds of food and we really need that to be serving the number of people we are serving,” said Cindy Elder, program director of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. “But the other thing that is really important about it is that it is one of the ways that everybody in this state can participate and is really done in following children, which is impressive.”
The scouts will visit homes in their respective communities this Saturday with their parents and troop leaders to distribute bags. The bags are printed with instructions about the food drive to leave the bags out on Nov. 2. That Saturday, scouts will collect the food bags and the food will be taken to neighborhood central locations to be sorted and boxed. The Rhode Island National Guard will then deliver the boxes to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank at 200 Niantic Avenue in Providence as well as local pantries.
“We’ve got 15 trucks that go around throughout the state and pick up the food,” said Brown. “Half of it goes to the Rhode Island Food Bank, and the rest of it, depending on where it is some of it stays with a local food pantry that is a partner organization with the food bank.”
According to Elder, in the rare case that the food is not picked up, the Food Bank has an arrangement with Walgreens stores across the state and members of the community can drop off their bags of food to any Walgreens a week after the drive as well as weekly between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. They can also drop the food off directly at the food bank.
“We encourage people to put a little extra food in the bag this year because right now we are serving 68,000 people a month, said Elder. “Those are the highest numbers we have ever seen.”
Elder explained this is a correlation with the rise of need with the economy and lack of jobs. In 2008, the Food Bank was only serving 37,000. Many of the people the Food Bank serves are individuals who are working low wages and part-time jobs.
They encourage non-perishable items and proteins, such as soups and tuna, canned fruits and vegetables, carbohydrates such as nutritious breakfast cereals, whole-wheat pasta, crackers and canned and dried beans. Items to avoid are unhealthy foods and candy.
“If you look at the work force that makes it happen, it is young children,” said Elder. “They do all the work; all people have to do is leave their bags of food out on November 2 and all of a sudden that simple act turns into hundreds of thousands of pounds of food that are desperately needed by families in Rhode Island right now.”