WEST JORDAN — Hundreds of Boy Scouts braved chilly spring temperatures Saturday to gather bags of canned fruit, vegetables, meat and other items from the doorsteps of generous Utahns to help supply the local food bank.
The Scouting for Food drive, in its 27th year, is the largest effort to restock otherwise dwindling shelves at the Utah Food Bank, which happens at this time each year.
"It's important to remember that all year long, not just at Christmastime, the Utah Food Bank needs help," said Jeff Grant, Scoutmaster of West Jordan's Troop 985. He said the scouts, their leaders and parents work hard for the event and also have fun doing it.
Last year, the West Jordan scouting district, which contains 24 troops of about 20 boys each, collected about 16,000 pounds of canned goods to deliver to the food bank.
"With video games and stuff, it's easy to forget how blessed we are and how many things we have," Grant said. "So it is important for these boys to come out and see that yeah, there is service that needs to be done. There are people who need help."
The Boy Scouts rounded neighborhoods throughout Utah during early hours Saturday to collect donations and then filled semi trailers, provided by the food bank and the Utah National Guard, with the canned goods and other supplies.
"The food of course helps people that need it and it also helps the people that are collecting the food and donating it to do the right thing," said 14-year-old Boy Scout Samuel Brown. "It shows we're putting in an effort to do what should be done."
Local food pantries benefit from the drive, as the goods are distributed throughout the communities where they are collected and where they are needed most.
"I know the economy is tough right now, there's a lot of problems, there are lot of people who are hungry," Grant said. "The Utah Food Bank does great things, so we like to help them out and make sure everyone has something to eat in Utah."
According to the Utah Food Bank, one in five Utah children is at risk of hunger and one in six Utahns lives in poverty.
The food bank accepts food and cash donations year-round, at all Harmon's grocery stores, as well as at the main warehouse, 3150 S.900 West, in Salt Lake City. A list of participating pantries throughout the state can be found online, at www.utahfoodbank.org.
Kent Liston, chief fiancial officer at the Utah Food Bank, said the facility needs help throughout the year.
"We've had a challenge with fund donations as well as food donations," he said, adding that the drive yields about 500,000 pounds of food for the bank's partnering 129 food pantries throughout the state.
The one-day statewide initiative brings in more food for needy families in Utah than any other event.
On March 26, Boy Scouts who participated in this year's food drive are invited to the warehouse, to witness how the food they worked so hard to collect is sorted and distributed.
"It makes you feel good to help, like we did a good change," Brown said.
Contributing: Anne Forester
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company