Scouts of Pack 61 with their haul from Scouting for Food 2020.

Boy Scout troops in the Greater Tampa Bay Area Council are preparing for the 2021 Scouting for Food event, a nonperishable food drive set to begin in late January.

Scouting for Food calls on thousands of youth to collect essentials for local food banks across the region, from Feeding Tampa Bay to smaller local pantries. Scouts will distribute door hangers to homes in their community to let them know about the drive between Saturday, January 23 and Friday, February 5.

On Saturday, February 6, Scouts will revisit those houses to pick up bags full of canned food, cereal, pasta, peanut butter, juice and other items, according to District Executive Kelsi Meliah.

“Scouting for Food takes place in the first two months of every year, and its success depends on the support of our communities,” Meliah said. “Each year, we are overwhelmed by peoples’ willingness to help in this project.”

Meliah said Scouting for Food took on special significance in 2020, as the Council held a record-breaking drive only weeks before COVID-19 was identified in the Tampa Bay Area. Scouts collected almost 37,000 pounds of food just in time to meet heightened demand caused by the pandemic and ensuing recession.

Scouting professionals advised units that this year’s drive will be just as critical, but the safety of youth participants and their families remains a paramount concern. Masks are to be worn and social distancing practiced for both the hanger distribution and food collection.

Eric Brown, a volunteer with Pack 61 in Brandon, said his unit is proud to participate every year. He explained they ensure this is a family event by meeting at a central location, dividing into dens and sweeping the surrounding neighborhoods to distribute the flyers. All food collected by Pack 61 benefits a food bank operated by their host organization, St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church.

“I’ve had Scouts come up and thank us for opening their eyes to such a needy cause,” Brown said. “They feel good and proud that they are able to support the community with health meals.”

To further incentivize participation, the council announced units participating in the food drive can qualify for year-round free camping on all Boy Scout properties in the area. According to Field Director Sharrod McCree, this project represents the kind of cheerful service Scouting wants to encourage and reward in young boys and girls.

“After all, our Scouting for Food campaign is what Scouting is all about,” McCree said. “It is embedded in the Scout Oath, ‘I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country, and to help other people at all times.’”

For more information, contact Kyle Molldene at 955-0860.