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Improve your Scouting for Food drive with these 10 tips

Happily serving others is a fundamental part of the Boy Scouts of America.

And the Scouting for Food program, an annual drive to collect and distribute food to those in need, is a key element of Scouts’ service to their community.

Scouting for Food involves a simple, three-step process: (1) Distribute bags to houses, (2) Collect bags full of canned food and other nonperishable goods, and (3) Deliver the food to a local food bank or aid group.

Seems easy, right?

But even though the fundamentals of the program are simple, there’s still some finesse involved in making sure things run smoothly.

That’s why we polled our friends on Scouting magazine’s official Facebook page and our followers on Twitter to see if they had any suggestions.

All of the suggestions were great, but here are 10 of our favorites:

  1. “We are in a rural area, and we take extra trash bags and pick up any trash that we see in the neighborhood. The neighbors love that extra help.” (Micaela H.)
  2. “Our area is large and centered around the school, so we set our dens off with maps and highlighters so they can indicate what sides of the street got done and where they stopped. Then on pickup day, they know exactly what areas to re-canvas.” (Jon P.)
  3. “Our troop mans the collection point and serves hot chocolate and homemade doughnuts to the Cub Scouts. Great for recruiting and retention.” (@troop407)
  4. “Organization, organization, organization. Get as many kids as you can that way they are not out there as long and will be in better spirits.” (Darrick B.)
  5. “We send two or three Scouts to each door. Many people want to give one item to each Scout so instead of one item we get two or three.” (J.T. H.)
  6. “If your unit is big enough, set up shop at a local grocery store in addition to the door-to-door pickup!” (@ScoutingNews)
  7. “We include a nice letter in the bags explaining what we’re doing as well as leave a thank-you note when we pick up. And on the initial bag letter I always leave my contact information in case they miss the pickup and still want to donate.” (Jon P. again)
  8. “Where we are, there are only so many entrances to the neighborhoods. So we made up signs that we stick at the front of each area letting everyone know when we would be picking up bags.” (Jason M.)
  9. “Have each boy bring in food to their next meeting that they collect from friends and family.” (Patricia R.)
  10. Finally, the always-popular pie in the face: “You can set a goal, and if every den gets that goal, then they get to put a pie in their den leader’s face.” (Chris C.)

Thanks for your contributions!

What other tips can you add?

Leave a comment below with your pack or troop’s time-tested ideas.

12 Comments on Improve your Scouting for Food drive with these 10 tips

  1. Don’t forget Facebook! We live in a small community and this year we posted on Facebook on the local county buy, sell, trade page that we were dropping off notes on the doors (we tape a brightly colored note to the glass on the front door with info about the drive). We also put out a Facebook reminder when we were picking up food. We usually are under 500 items in our small town but this year we were well over 700!

  2. John DeCoursey // November 7, 2014 at 5:06 pm // Reply

    Make sure everyone that is picking up food know their unit number. I work at a food drop off area and have many parents drop food off and don’t know their unit #. We make every effort to give credit to the right unit.

  3. It is also very helpful if the Council doesn’t schedule a Cub Scout camporee the same day as you are supposed to put bags out

  4. Put up a “Thank You” sign after collecting from your neighborhoods.

  5. We as a pack visited the food shelf; we learned about their special projects (backpack meals), how people qualify and how many people they serve each week. It was eye opening for the boys and we had much more effort by the boys,and they were able to explain better the reasons for doing the food drive in their classes. If you are not doing it, consider it.

  6. We collect change to adopt a family and old coats and hats for needy kids this season. We do our scouting for food around Easter since everyone else in our area is doing it now.

  7. We just had a regular canned food drive as part of our annual night of service. We made it a contest between the dens, with prizes for both scouts (candy) and parents ($10 off the next camping trip) . We collected about 325 food items. One scout brought 52 items!

  8. In our community we partner with all the local Packs and Troops, and the Girl Scouts. This is a great community wide effort that lets all the kids work together and canvas the entire town. In addition to a Facebook page, we also asked the local paper to publish an announcement, and had our local Chamber of Commerce put Scouting for Food up on the community signboard. We also have a collection bin in our local grocery store. Our food drive happens tomorrow and our goal is 5000lbs of donations.

  9. In our area, Units also put some recruitment information on their Scouting for Food flyer. Schools in our area do not allow flyers to be passed out. By including some recruitment information on the flyer, Units are still able to get out the message about their Local Scout Unit’.

    This is coordinated with media at the collection site to let everyone know how the community did in collecting food.

    While many places do this collection around Thanksgiving or Christmas, I find the first week in February to be a better time. Many food banks have been depleted from the holiday ‘rush’. In addition, it gives I good tie in to the anniversary of Boy Scouts.

  10. Our den is in N.H. and we deal with many different types of weather related issues, so what pack 270 tends to do is first we put up flyers- door to door the week prior to p.u and then we pick up any flyers that end up on the ground so we leave no trace behind, and finally on p.u. day we have a huge church clean up to show our appreciation to the community .

  11. Our area dropped the bag drop off a few years ago (multiple reasons). This year we saved bags and dropped off with fliers(including recruitment info) at a third of the area. Triple or better the intake in that area. We knock on every door if no bag.
    We also had a Twitter reminder every dad (anniversary week) and tagged different groups/schools in the area. Softened the schools up, and allowed for one of those seven (heard it’s now twelve) asking opportunities

  12. Annalisa Crannell // November 18, 2015 at 2:37 pm // Reply

    I am not a boy scout (but for many years I was a Girl Scout). I want to thank you very much for the food drive. It’s a wonderful way to help those in need — for example, in my own city, one in four children are food insecure. I know the local food bank really appreciates the extra help you give them! I also think this drive is a wonderful way to teach the scouts about the importance of helping others.

    I do have a recommendation to suggest. The plastic bags that you use to request and collect the food detract from the good that you do. When I go out for walks, I see them littering the side of the road where they’ve blown away. Plastic bags are a known source of pollution and environmental hazard (because they’re so light they can be blown far away, and end up endangering sea life, even). For this reason, many locations have banned them from stores.

    If your group could switch from plastic bags to paper tags — which people could affix to their own plastic bags, or even tape directly onto boxes of food — this would create a much more ecologically friendly food pickup. (I think that a paper tag would also be much easier to read than the bags, which I have to say, have fairly smudged print.)

    Again, thank you for this wonderful service to our community.

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