Boy Scouts across Hernando County are preparing for their Scouting for Food drive, a charitable collection of nonperishable foods and the largest service project they undertake each year.
“One of the principles Boy Scouts of America teaches youth is the importance of service to others,” Pauline Zerbe, Scouting’s local chairwoman of civic service, said. “The Scouts recognize that the success of this program is more important than ever in these unprecedented times.”
Zerbe explained that Scouts of the local Withlacoochee District will distribute door hangers asking the community to fill bags with nonperishable food between January 23 and February 5. The hangers will also include a date and approximate time households should leave the filled bags outside their doors for collection by those same Scouts. Items like dry pasta, grains, cereals, nut butters, and canned goods are all in demand.
“This program is safe and entirely socially distanced, requiring no direct contact with participating Scouts, parents, or leaders,” Zerbe said.
Most of the food collected in Hernando County will be donated to organizations like the St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Brooksville First United Methodist Church food pantry, and Jericho Road Ministries. While 2020’s drive amassed over 6,000 pounds of food in the Withlacoochee District alone, Zerbe said she hopes they can beat that number this year.
“Food pantries are struggling to meet overwhelming demand caused by the pandemic,” Zerbe said. “One of the principles Scouting teaches youth is the importance of service to others and their community in times of need.”
Hernando County held a food insecurity rate of 13.9% as recently as 2018, according to Feeding America. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent recession have only exacerbated the crisis, and their research suggests that more than 50 million people in the United States could face hunger as a result.
“This is the time to do something right and make sure others are taken care of,” Emily Thomas, a volunteer with Cub Scout Pack 8681 in Spring Hill, said.
Thomas said that Pack 8681, Boys Troop 8681 and Girls Troop 8681 will all be proud to participate in 2021 as in years past. They will join more than a dozen other Hernando County units in the project.
“I hope they learn that there is always enough food to go around,” Thomas said of the youth in her Pack. “You can always afford to give someone a box of something so they won’t go hungry.”
To coordinate a Scouting for Food donation or to learn more about Scouting in Hernando County, contact the Withlacoochee District office at (352) 459-9375.