Think of it as a drive-thru in reverse.
Instead of picking up, say, a chicken sandwich and waffle fries at the drive-thru, a bunch of Los Angeles area drivers left behind canned items for a good cause.
The eighth annual Food Drive-Thru, held last month, was staffed by Scouts and Venturers from the Western Los Angeles Area Council who gave up their weekend to help people struggling to find their next meal.
This year, the Scouts collected enough food to feed the West Valley Food Pantry’s 4,000 clients for more than six weeks.
“This translates to tens of thousands of meals through the holiday season,” says Jeff Rudner, the event’s chairman and founder. “It’s a truly profound result.”
How it all began
Cub Scout Pack 333’s annual charity movie night was a pretty big deal.
Attendees came to a local movie theater with an unwrapped toy. The toys were donated to a local charity, and the attendees got to see a movie for free.
But when Rudner took over as Cubmaster in 2012, he questioned whether that annual project should continue.
“I didn’t like the idea of the movie night” he says. “It cost too much money for the pack, and the charitable act of placing the unwrapped toy in a box had little or no meaning to the Cub Scouts.”
Rudner wanted to create an event that would give the Cub Scouts a more tangible sense of what service means. And so, later that year, the Food Drive-Thru was born.
“The council’s traditional door-to-door Scouting for Food program had been declining in participation over the years, and the Food Drive-Thru provided an alternative that has been increasing in popularity among Scout participants,” Rudner says. “Further, the event represents an experience that involves interaction between Scouts and the public.”
A winning formula
As the number of homeless people rises throughout the Los Angeles area, food banks struggle to keep their shelves stocked.
In one part of Los Angeles, the Scouts have helped the fight against hunger in significant ways. Since its inception, the Food Drive-Thru has been the No. 1 contributor of food donations to the West Valley Food Pantry — more than 300,000 pounds of donated food to date.
“It’s a tremendous source of pride,” Rudner says. “I am thrilled with the results we have been able to achieve, but equally as important, I love that our Scout volunteers are at the core of the success.”
Thinking about safety
With cars driving (albeit very slowly) near Scouts, I asked Rudner how he handles safety.
As you can see in the photos, the Scouts wear reflective safety vests. Traffic delineators make the vehicle’s pathway obvious. And adults are constantly watching to make sure Scouts stay out of harm’s way.
Furthermore, the sheriff’s department and venue security officers work with the adult volunteers to make sure everyone is safe and aware of their surroundings.
What the donors said
Each year, Rudner likes to talk with the donors to ask what they like about the Food Drive-Thru.
“During volunteer orientation, I ask the Scouts what they think is the No. 1 answer,” he says. “Most Scouts will guess that the No. 1 reason is that people enjoy the opportunity to help those in need — especially a couple weeks prior to the Thanksgiving holiday.
“To the Scouts’ surprise, that is the No. 2 answer. The No. 1 reason is the Scouts. They love seeing our hard-working Scouts with smiles on their faces. They love seeing our hundreds of volunteers working together for a greater cause. How amazing is that?”