How do you conduct a Scouting for Food drive in the middle of a global pandemic?
With a little bit of Scouting ingenuity and a lot of Good Turns.
After the coronavirus forced a pack and troop in Wisconsin to cancel last month’s Scouting for Food drive, the Scouts and their families brought back the service project in a big way.
Earlier this month, packs and troops in Germantown, Wis. (Potawatomi Area Council), launched a drive-thru and front-yard campaign that allowed them to collect food and other supplies for the St. Boniface Food Pantry and other neighbors in need. This was a joint effort among Packs 112, 165 and 271 along with Troops 271 and 115.
“We are so proud of our Scouts and how they are helping during this difficult time,” says Jennifer Matheny, a Cubmaster and assistant Scoutmaster. “With so many of us pulled apart, Scouting for Food is bringing us closer than ever.”
Their efforts come at a critical time as food insecurity is worsening in Wisconsin and across the U.S. CBS News reports that Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization, expects the number of people nationwide who don’t have enough to eat will grow by 46 percent to 54 million as a result of the virus outbreak.
Front-Yard Food Drive
Instead of Scouts going door to door to collect food donations, this food drive flipped the script. Scouts encouraged prospective donors to bring canned items directly to their front yards.
Matheny and her fellow volunteers started by contacting families in their pack and troop to share the plan.
They emailed printable signs that Scouts attached to bins, boxes and laundry baskets. The Scouts put those boxes near the sidewalk in their front yards.
“The response from the community was immediate,” Matheny says. “In Wisconsin, the only time many of us get out is to take walks. While walking, people see our Front-Yard Food Drive, and on their next walk, contribute.”
In no time the boxes began to fill with canned fruits and canned vegetables, pancake mix and peanut butter, rice and baked beans. Matheny and other volunteers then went around to pick up the food and deliver it to the food pantry.
Drive-Thru Food Drive
But Pack 112 and Troop 271 wanted to do even more, so they added a Drive-Thru Food Drive.
Matheny created graphics for the drive, and parents and Scouts began sharing them on social media.
They set up at a local grocery store, and the manager allowed them to place signs inside saying what items the food bank needed most. Matheny also added signs thanking people for their donations.
At 9 a.m. on Saturday, the cars started showing up. And they pretty much kept showing up all day until 6 p.m.
The donations quickly filled Troop 115’s trailer. By the end of the first day, the pack and troop had collected 989 pounds of food. Cash and check donations to the food pantry totaled an additional $643.
“You know that famous quote, ‘If you build it, they will come?’ Well, we did and they did,” Matheny says. “Car after car came through, popping their trunks and unlocking their doors.”
With stay-at-home orders continuing for several more weeks and months, and with more Americans filing for unemployment, the Scouts plan to continue their Front-Yard and Drive-Thru Food Drive until at least the end of April.
“And we have been getting inquiries from all over the country on what we are doing and how they can duplicate,” Matheny says. “We would love to share our signs and graphics and the super simple process for doing this with any pack or troop who would like to do this, too.”
Matheny says interested Scouters can find her on Facebook under Jennifer Amato Matheny or email firstname.lastname@example.org if they’d like to learn more.
As for my take, I love to see when Scouting families step up to help their communities. And I especially appreciate when they’re so eager to help others do the same.