Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Venturers and Explorers will hit the streets Saturday to deliver tens of thousands of bags to residences across the area. On Nov. 21, one week later, Scouts will retrieve the bags filled with non-perishable goods for distribution to local pantries.
"This time of year, pantries often see their lowest food reserves, yet an increase in need," said Mark Hays, district executive for Boy Scouts of America Greater St. Louis Council. "One of many Scout service projects, Scouting for Food brings youth an awareness of their communities' needs, but also demonstrates the astounding support our neighbors provide one another."
Some pantries have reported that this single food drive keeps their shelves stocked for more than four months, according to Hays, whose district office is based in Herrin.
"To think that one-third of the food helping local families comes through the hands of Scouts is a remarkable testament to Scouting's importance," he added.
Jonathon Chester, 10, of Carbondale will place empty bags on door handles Saturday with fellow Scouts and pick up bags filled with food a week later.
"It makes me feel happy to help people have food for Thanksgiving," Chester said.
Colt Chrostoski, 8, of Stiritz said it "feels really nice" to collect food for people who need it.
The local districts in Southwestern Illinois are coordinating with area Casey's General Stores to expand efforts in increasing volume to local food pantries. Casey's will allow Scouting units to advertise the Scouting for Food service project within the stores and will also be an additional place at which people can leave food donations.
With so many varieties of canned foods in today's supermarkets, choosing what to donate can be a difficult decision. Roberta Duyff, registered dietitian and author of "American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide," suggested the following items to be good contributions in the "perfect" Scouting for Food bag:
Two cans hearty soup, stew or chili
One can fruit
One can 100 percent fruit juice
Two cans tuna, chicken or salmon
One can vegetables
One can tomato or pasta sauce
One canned meal
One can beans
One can evaporated milk
"Canned ingredients offer an easy and convenient way for people to put nutrition on the table," Duyff said. "University of Illinois research shows that canned ingredients are as nutritious as fresh and frozen ingredients."
The Greater St. Louis Area Council, which includes St. Louis, 27 counties in eastern Missouri and 10 counties in Southern Illinois, began the Scouting for Food drive in 1985. Since that time, more than 35 million cans of food have been donated.