During this season of giving, I often think about how our Scouting for Food program has evolved into a lasting goodwill adventure for many of our councils. It is a wonderful example of how our spirit of service to our communities knows no boundaries.
When Scouting for Food was first announced, as the Program Director of the Hiawatha Council in Syracuse, NY, it was my job to support the chair of this new effort. We had no idea how much food would be collected, and organized a fleet of 18 wheelers with potato bins to collect the donated items.
We were overwhelmed! The potato bins quickly filled, and the food was just shoved in the trucks any way possible. The staff and volunteers then worked for 48 hours straight at the Food Bank sorting, boxing, and dealing with all the food.
And we saw some strange things come out of people’s cabinets! There were cans of caviar, sardines, shoe polish, you name it. After a weekend, we emerged sleepy, worn out, but just full of wonder at the spirit of giving we witnessed. It brought home for me how Scouting can be the instigator of motivating the community to action.
What started in 1988 as a two-year “National Good Turn” food-collection program is still going strong 27 years later. Hunger was identified by Scouting at that time as one of five “unacceptables” in our society (others were drug and child abuse, illiteracy and unemployment), and Scouting for Food was launched to meet the needs of the nation’s hungry. Our Scouts collected more than 60 million food items the first year.
Since then, we have collected tons of food supplies to help the needy from coast-to-coast, and this year is no different. To highlight just a few great examples: Troop 73 in Westfield, N.J. filled three rooms of its local food pantry from floor to ceiling with Scouting for Food donations; door-to-door collections by Scouts in Hillsboro, Ohio netted 1,393 food items; and in Reno, Nev., Scouts collected nearly 5,000 pounds of supplies for a food pantry that serves more than 5,000 families a month.
Our Scout Oath calls on our young people to “help other people at all times,” and Scouting for Food demonstrates to the nation how our movement can make a difference in their communities.
Serving others always has been what the BSA does best. Our first national Good Turn in 1912 promoted a “safe and sane” Fourth of July. We answered the call to support our nation’s military in World War I by planting war gardens and selling Liberty bonds and war savings stamps totaling more than $355 million. During World War II, we rallied to collect 30 million pounds of rubber during a two-week drive and served as messengers and dispatch bearers. And in 1971, Scouting’s Keep America Beautiful Day collected a million tons of litter.
Now, in this latest chapter of our service history, Scouting for Food has grown into a major legacy program for many of our councils and has become a point of pride for millions of Scouts. In addition to the joy of helping others, Scouting for Food also gives our young people a sense of responsibility, teaches leadership and gives additional meaning to our “Do a Good Turn Daily” slogan. It is another way that we build character for America’s youth.
I want to offer my thanks and congratulations to the volunteer and staff leadership of local councils along with all of our Scouts and units that helped gather much-needed food supplies both this year and in years past for needy individuals and families across the country. Your efforts are definitely making a positive difference in the lives of those who are less fortunate. Many food pantries, shelters and other humanitarian agencies depend on Scouting for Food projects to help keep their shelves full, and I am always inspired by our Scouts and volunteers who answer the call year after year.
Well done, everyone!
Thanks for reading,