Feeding The Hungry

Boy Scouts collect food for annual campaign

By Shel Williams
Post Register
Printed on Sunday, November 20, 2005

It began at 9 a.m. with Boy Scouts of all sizes scurrying from house to house, picking up plastic bags of canned goods that will help feed needy residents.

Some troops made a second trip through neighborhoods at about 11 a.m., scouring sidewalks and porches for any last-minute donations.

The flurry of activity was part of the annual Scouting for Food campaign, the largest food drive in the area. In Idaho Falls, Scouts collected more than 74,000 cans of food to fill the shelves of a regional warehouse, which then distributes food to organizations such as the Idaho Falls Food Bank and The Salvation Army.

By noon, Scouts had trucked most of the contributions to one of three locations around town, where another wave of volunteers sorted and counted the cans.

And while volunteers hoped to finish at about 3 p.m., unloading trucks and tallying up the goods continued as Doug Andrus' trucks were loaded and the food delivered to the Eastern Idaho Community Action Partnership warehouse in Idaho Falls.

Despite fears to the contrary, donations were up in Idaho Falls.

"It went up 5,000 cans in the Eagle Rock district," Boy Scouts volunteer leader Richard Soelberg said. "Nationwide, it is the single greatest community service project the scouts do."

Scouting for Food is a tradition that started in the 1920s in various parts of the country, said David Jones of the Boys Scouts Grand Teton Council.

This year saw a 25 percent increase in the number of adults and youths participating in the drive, Jones said. The council, which covers southeastern Idaho and parts of western Wyoming and Montana, collected about 495,000 cans of food this year.

"For every four cans, we're feeding about three people," Jones said. "If you look at it that way, we're providing 340,000 meals to individuals just with what we brought in today."

About two-thirds of the annual contributions to the clearinghouse come from the Boy Scouts' annual drive, said Cheryl Bailey, community services director for EICAP, formerly EISSA.

The clearinghouse supplies food to agencies such as the Idaho Falls Community Food Bank, The Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul, Falls Southern Baptist Church, Cornerstone Assembly of God and the Family Care Center.

It also stores the food for seven volunteer food banks around eastern Idaho.

"Unfortunately, this is the last year that we'll be able to do this," Bailey said. "After Dec. 31, we don't have a building. It's quite possible that agencies will have to divide up the food and find their own storage for it."

The Scouting for Food Drive barely carries local food banks through the winter, the toughest time of year for struggling families.

"By the time the Postal Workers' food drive comes in May, we're out of food from the Boy Scout drive, because the need is greater in the winter," she said.

And without the generosity of local community members, low-income families, the homeless, the disabled and the elderly would suffer.

"A lot of these agencies would have to buy food, and they don't have the resources for that," Bailey said. "The need's not going to go away. People would go hungry."