Boy Scouts and other Scouting-age youths will be out doing good turns Saturday during a statewide collection of food for the poor and needy.

It's the annual Scouting for Food drive, sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America and the Cache Valley, Great Salt Lake, Lake Bonneville and Utah National Parks councils.Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts distributed bags, provided by Utah Power & Light Co., to Utah homes in recent days. Boys will return to the homes Saturday morning, hoping the bags are filled with commercially canned and packaged non-perishable food for distribution to food banks and pantries throughout the state.

Varsity Scouts and Explorers will assemble and box the food, which will be transported by the Utah National Guard. There are 24 sites in the Salt Lake Valley alone for the boxing and crating effort, said Warren Shepherd of the Great Salt Lake Council staff and statewide coordinator for the food-gathering program.

"The potential good that can be accomplished through this effort is truly staggering. Last year, Scouts in Utah collected 1.2 million food items . . . in the most successful food drive ever conducted in the state. Some of the food banks received enough items to last throughout the year. The Great Salt Lake Council collected 495,000 food items last year," said David Campbell, the council's Scouting for Food chairman.

"This year, we expect to exceed that amount. Within the four Scout councils in Utah we have a potential of 9,000 Scouting units with 136,000 registered youths available to participate," Campbell said.

Nationally, about 5 million Scouts will be involved.

The need for food is growing throughout the state. Last year, some 175,000 requests for food were filled at the various food banks. This does not include food given by the Salt Lake Food Bank to various feeding stations.

Richard Winters, executive director, Community Services Council, which operates the Salt Lake Food Bank, said hundreds of Utah families are in need and will be assisted through the effort.

"It is especially appropriate that this be done just before Thanksgiving. The Scouts can be thankful they are able to be helpful. Donors can be thankful they have enough to share, and the needy can be thankful they received needed help," Winters said.