For the past 30 years, Johnston’s Boy Scouts have been prepared to help those in need during the holiday season by doing a good turn and participating in the Scouting for Food drive to benefit the Rhode Island Community Food Bank and other food pantries.
“The Scouting for Food drive is our biggest food drive of the year. Out of anything that we do all year round, this brings in the most food, so it’s critical to us that it’s successful,” said Hugh Minor, Director of Communications at the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, who as of Tuesday was still tallying this year’s food totals. “Last year we had about 180,000 pounds of food. This year we’re looking at coming in at around 190,000 pounds.”
On Saturday, October 28, after receiving detailed instructions and a map of the town they were to cover, the nearly 50 scouts of Troop and Pack 20 from St. Robert Bellarmine Church left informational door hangers on residences as they canvassed the area. The yellow door hangers gave instructions that asked residents to contribute healthy canned and boxed foodstuffs to the food drive. Participants were instructed to leave those goods in a box or bag outside of their door the morning of the November 4 for the Scouts to pick up.
“Overall, I’m hearing really positive things from people, that more people got door hangers than in the past, and we’re hoping that affects the response. The recent storm really didn’t affect our numbers. What we received here at the Food Bank is more than we received last year. That’s a good sign and I hope all of the sites received more than in past years,” said Minor. “It may even be that the storm made people think about what happens when we lose our power and a lot of people lost their food and what it was like to be without.”
Johnston scouts collected approximately 1,900 pounds worth of food this year. As of Wednesday, the total haul had grown to 215,000 pounds of food collected. Since the food drive’s inception in 1987, Rhode Island scouts have collected over 9.2 million pounds of food in total
“I think that’s an excellent amount for what we’ve collected in recent years,” said Pack 20 Cubmaster Gregory Pagliarini. “We have a generous community in Johnston and the boys did a good job getting out there and getting the neighborhoods covered.”
According to the Food Bank, collected items brought to their facility are inspected and sorted, then distributed to about 150 agencies throughout the state. A total of 146,000 Rhode Islanders live in poverty. Each month, 59,000 of those residents seek assistance through the Food Bank's network of emergency food programs. Twelve percent of Rhode Island households struggle to afford nutritious meals, and 4.7 percent of Rhode Island households experience severe hunger.
“It’s important for the community; there are a lot of people all over the state who are hurting. The Food Bank does a wonderful job in helping families get through some tough times. It could be your next door neighbors; you may not know it, but they could be suffering,” said Troop 20 Scoutmaster David Curtin. “It’s a good learning experience for the boys. They get to understand that they are a part of the community, that there are people out there who need help, and helping is part of being a good citizen, and that’s what Scouting is all about.”
While the drive helps those in need, Scouts also benefit as the time spent volunteering may be used towards rank advancement requirements.
Scouting for Food is a cooperative effort supported by the Narragansett Council of the Boy Scouts of America, the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, WPRI-12 News, Fox Providence, the Rhode Island National Guard, The Valley Breeze and area fire stations.
Hugh Minor credited the work of both the Scouts and the National Guard. He said the Guard came out with about 10 to 12 trucks and that they came out first thing in the morning and spread out all over the state to come back with the donated food.
“This comes at such an important time of the year for us as we head into the winter months and we see more and more people come out for assistance, we are so dependent on the success of this food drive and we thank the Scouts and the Guard for their help,” said Minor.
Those not able to participate in the Scouting for Food drive but would like to give may visit a local food pantry or the RI Community Food Bank located at 200 Niantic Ave., Providence. Food can also be dropped off at one of two Scout Shops located at the West Bay Scout Shop at 1276 Bald Hill Road in Warwick and the East Bay Scout Shop at 79 Swansea Mall Drive in Swansea, Mass.