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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Volunteers collect food at Elk Ridge Middle School in South Jordan as the Utah Food Bank and its partner agencies across the state team up with the Boy Scouts of America to help fight hunger during the 33rd annual Scouting For Food on Saturday, March 16, 2019.

SOUTH JORDAN — As part of the Boy Scout oath, young men promise "To help other people at all times" as well as live their lives with honesty and strong character.

On Saturday, that duty to serve and pledge to do their part to make the world better was on full display as scores of Scouts throughout the Beehive State collected thousands of pounds of food to help Utah families in their times of need as part of the annual Scouting For Food drive.

"This shows that a small effort of one (individual) combined with the efforts of many produces a great result," Glen Thorne, district commissioner for the Great Salt Lake Council of the Boy Scouts, said. "It's a great opportunity to actually get out and do something for somebody."

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Daniel Ferguson places boxes of cereal into a container as volunteers collect food at Elk Ridge Middle School in South Jordan as the Utah Food Bank and its partner agencies across the state team up with the Boy Scouts of America to help fight hunger during the 33rd annual Scouting For Food on Saturday, March 16, 2019.

Ginette Bott, president and CEO of the Utah Food Bank, said the effort comes at a crucial time as supplies at the Utah Food Bank and emergency food pantries begin to dwindle after the holiday season.

Thorne said the event gives young Scouts the chance to see how little gestures can have a big impact on people all over the state.

Various Scout troops statewide passed out door-hanger flyers to ask local residents to leave bags of food to be picked up and brought to a central collection site. The annual event includes cooperation with the Utah National Guard and the Utah Food Bank and its partner agencies.

Being able to help so many deserving Utah families is a heartwarming experience, Thorne said.

"It amazes me and I'm grateful for my peers in my community, those who are willing to donate and that we can all come together for a greater cause," Thorne said. "(The reason) why I volunteer at all is that hopefully, it makes a difference for somebody."

The new food donations will help replenish depleted stockpiles that had been gathered at the end of the year, Bott said. Since its inception 33 years ago, the yearly effort has provided the equivalent of over 19 million meals, she noted, and this year the goal is to increase that total to 21 million meals.

Heading into the spring and summer months, collecting new food donations is critical for the well-being of many Utah families, she said.

"June, July and August are the most challenging for the Utah Food Bank," Bott said. "Having the Scout council provide this help right now as we prepare for summer is very important."

She said many kids get their meals through the free and reduced breakfast and lunch programs at school, but those kids will miss out on those meals during the summer break. Families with children then have to visit local food pantries more often to get nutrition, which decreases the food bank's inventory much more rapidly, she explained.

Bott said 12 percent of Utah's population is challenged with issues of hunger, which translates into approximately 382,000 people who regularly utilize the food bank or one of the 150 food pantries located throughout the state.

Meanwhile, she noted that a recent decision by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to end its partnership with the Boy Scouts of America at the end of this year could impact the success of the annual food drive if there are fewer Scouts.

"Many generations have participated in this tradition," she said. "I hope it doesn't go away."

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Thorne said the mission of the Boy Scouts is something he strongly believes in and he is hopeful that the food drive and other Scouting-related activities can continue.

"I hope to see that those who want to be involved will stay involved (and) hopefully that will translate into enough youth that it can keep this (food drive) going," he said. "I'd hate to see that opportunity go away. It's a need that still needs to be met, but how we go about it as a community to help the Utah Food Bank and the pantries I don't know. It's a great opportunity for the youth to see that their small efforts can have a great impact."