By Brandon Kathman
The Greater Tampa Bay Area Council
Hernando County, FL: The Boy Scouts of America’s Greater Tampa Bay Area Council held a record-shattering Scouting for Food Drive in February, with Scouts assembling more than 45,000 pounds of food for local pantries.
The Withlacoochee District, which serves Hernando, Citrus and Sumter Counties, led Scouting districts across the region with 11,467 pounds collected for charities like the St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Providence Church food pantry, and the Brooksville First United Methodist Church food pantry. During the annual drive, youth are given the opportunity to choose which local food banks they wish to support within their communities
“I could not be prouder of Withlacoochee District scouts,” Pauline Zerbe, the district’s civic service chairwoman said. “These scouts demonstrated duty and loyalty to serving the needs of others by collecting nearly six tons of food within a two-week period. One unit collected so much food that the pantry manager was in tears.”
Scouting for Food typically sees scouts distribute door hangers throughout local neighborhoods, requesting that residents leave nonperishable food items on their doorsteps at a specified collection time. This year, some units even partnered with larger grocery stores to maximize their returns.
According to Jeremy Twachtman, who directed the Scouting for Food program across the Greater Tampa Bay Area Council, this is the second year in a row that their food drive has broken the previous record. Furthermore, Twachtman said he is awaiting additional reports from several units, so the total is likely to increase. So far, 101 units across the nine-county council have reported results amounting to 45,056 pounds.
“For context, we had 113 units and 37,082 pounds of food reported in 2020,” Twachtman said.
Hernando County Cub Scout Packs 27, 43, 71, 708, 716 and 8681 all participated alongside Troops 71, 433, 443B, 443G, 446, 8681B and 8681G. According to Cub Master Adam Oden of Pack 43, his unit collected 1,857 pounds, and he saw the service project as a teaching opportunity.
“Most children don’t know what it is like to not have food readily available,” Oden said. “It's a great way to teach scouts about big problems and explain how everyone can help be part of the solution.”
For Brooksville Pack 71 and Troop 71, the food drive represented an opportunity to help support the other charitable efforts of their chartering organization, Brooksville First United Methodist Church. Volunteer Jill Migone explained the units maintain a close relationship with their sponsor, and the youth were glad to see the food they collected go to the church’s own food pantry.
“The church food pantry provides hundreds of meals to local families and the homeless every week,” Migone said. “It is an honor and a blessing that our scouts and Scouting families were able to help families in our own backyard. It’s one of the most valuable lessons we can instill in today’s youth.”