Utah Boy Scout leaders thought they might have problems in the "Scouting for Food" drive Saturday but not of the magnitude that developed. Running out of boxes and bags and no place to put thousands of pounds of food caused many headaches.
Nevertheless, volunteer and professional Scouters are happy about the effort because it produced far more food than they expected to be donated."Our major problem was that we were just overwhelmed, having run out of bags and boxes early in the day at many collection points," said Warren Shepherd, Great Salt Lake Council field director.
But he and hundreds of other Scouters are elated. They aren't complaining, even though they worked from early morning until late Saturday night to help boys gather the food. The hundreds of tons of food will be distributed to food banks and pantries serving the needy throughout the state
Neither are officials complaining in the Utah National Parks, Cache or Lake Bonneville councils, which all gathered food in record-breaking amounts as part of the BSA's "good turn."
Not counting food gathered in Tooele, Summit and south Davis counties, Great Salt Lake Council collections totaled 400,000 items (a can or package of food counted as an item) or 324 tons.
Utah National Parks Council collected 366,655 items for a total of more than 93 tons, said Paul Sabey, council director of finance and public relations.
Neil Butterfield, Cache Valley Council executive, conservatively estimated 42,000 items for a total of 20 tons. A tonnage figure was not available from Lake Bonneville Council, Ogden, but Kim Hardcastle, who oversees the Weber View District, said 222,000 items were collected in the entire council.
"As near as we can tell, about 5,200 boys participated in the food drive in the Cache Valley Council," said Butterfield, who said food was still coming in Monday.
"Our phones were ringing off the hook" Saturday, said Butterfield, explaining that some energetic boys stopped at homes before residents could get their canned and packaged items on their front porches.
"The food bank people are just elated with the food we have collected. It is more by far than they have ever received. We still have four truckloads of food parked in the National Guard armories that couldn't be taken care of Saturday evening," Butterfield said.
"Next year we'll be better organized. We really didn't know what to expect in the amount of food. We had no track record by which to judge it. The amount of food that came in was more than we were organized to handle, but we'll do better next year," he said.
Hardcastle said he and other leaders are delighted with the variety and quality of food contributed.
"People were very generous. It was unbelievable. We ran out of boxes in my district before 10 troops had checked in. Western General Dairies, located across the street from the district check-in point, gave us two pallets of boxes, which saved the day. We filled every one of them and still had to send food in a few sacks," Hardcastle said. He said about 350 troops participated.
Sabey said 1,873 Scouting units (Cubs, Boy Scouts, Varsity and Explorers) were involved in the Utah National Parks Council.
"We are thrilled to death. It is much more than we anticipated," he said, giving thanks to Gerald Day, owner of Day's Super Markets and chairman of the board of Associated Foods. Sabey said Thriftway Food Stores, Food Town and Bestway furnished 105,000 plastic bags for the collection.
Food collected in the Salt Lake Valley was transported to a warehouse loaned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The food will be distributed by the Salt Lake Food Bank, operated by the Community Services Council. Several food pantries and feeding stations regularly receive food from the food bank.