When a call went out to Aquia District Scouts BSA last month asking them to participate in a no-contact food drive, Scouts and their family members across Stafford County answered the call, collecting 5,706 pounds of food and raising more than $2,500 for several food pantries.
Scouts in Aquia District traditionally participate in Scouting For Food, a BSA national food drive held every November. Going door-to-door in neighborhoods and collecting in front of stores that grant permission, Scouts work hard. Last November, Scouts collected 24,899 pounds of food for eight Stafford pantries. In retrospect, that seemed like an easy feat in the face of the current pandemic.
Before the current crisis, pantries supported by the annual Scouting For Food food drive were regularly feeding between four and 40 families per week, depending on the pantry. Coronavirus-related job loss and furloughs created a greater need, and most Stafford pantries have remained open on the front lines of the fight against food insecurity. However, as pantries face an increase in clients, they are experiencing a decrease in ways to garner donations of food. Donations of food via food drives are the main source of non-perishables for these pantries.
Scout units are typically assigned neighborhoods to canvas during Scouting For Food; the publicity is nationwide and the event well-known. However, this mid-year call to fill the pantries required a new approach to get the word out and gather food safely without physical contact. Scouts were asked to participate to whatever extent they could manage that would honor their individual family’s rules for safely addressing risks associated with COVID-19. This ranged from sharing information about the items needed by the pantries via email and social media or by paper fliers asking neighbors and friends to bring their donations to one of two drop-off points, to sharing that information with neighbors on surrounding streets and then donning masks and gloves to pick up donations from doorsteps and bring them to the drop off location.
Drop off locations were carefully orchestrated to maintain distance between Scouts, volunteers and the community. Each station, from holding signs directing traffic to collection bins filled with donations to weighing those donations, were self-contained activities.
Stafford food pantries continue to meet the needs of the community every week. This no-contact food drive showed what Scouts can do even during this tough time. Their efforts helped stock shelves that were quickly emptying.
The need continues. Service remains a cornerstone of Scouting, and Aquia District Scouts will pull together again in August to hold another food drive.
To join BSA, visit beascout.org to find a unit near you. Cub Scouting serves families with children in kindergarten through 5th grade; Scouts BSA serves families with children ages 11–18. There are also programs for families with older youths, ages 14–21, including Venturers, Explorers and Sea Scouts. For more information on Scouting in the Fredericksburg area, including how to donate, join or volunteer, contact Tom Friedel, district executive, at Tom.Friedel@Scouting.org; or call 301/221-4286.