BURRILLVILLE/NORTH SMITHFIELD – You may have seen them this weekend, young men and women on a mission, many in crisp uniforms with badges and hats, walking door to door.
Troops with the Boy Scouts of America Narragansett Council were Scouting for Food on Saturday, Nov. 6, collecting non-perishable items for Rhode Island families in need.
Started in 1988, the program is now the largest annual Scout service project, resulting in the collection nearly 10 million pounds of food since its inception. Food is distributed to pantries across the state, including the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, where the need, they say, is greater than ever.
“The ongoing COVID-19 health crisis has increased the demand for food in our area by 50 percent,” notes information on the program. “This year, more than ever, our neighbors need our help.”
Packs, troops, teams, and crews answered the call this weekend at collection drives in their respective communities. Food was collected at drop off sites or picked up from homes, and sorted for delivery.
In northern Rhode Island, groups participating include Troop 438 and Pack 7 in North Smithfield, and Troops 1 and 102 in Burrillville. The groups left door tags on many homes notifying locals of the program last weekend, and returned this Saturday to pick up donations.
Families who received a door hanger were asked to place canned and boxed goods in a bag, attach the tag, and place it outside in the same location it was left by 9 a.m. on Saturday.
But with more than 80-square-miles and 28,000 residents between the two neighboring towns, the small troops were not able to visit every home.
“The scouts picked streets in town off of a map, and most of the town was covered but we don’t have enough ‘scoutpower’ to necessarily get every street in town,” Troop 438 leaders told NRI NOW.
As such, the Burrillville Scouts also set up shop at the fire station at 141 Howard Ave. in Pascoag from 9 to 11 a.m., collecting canned tuna, peanut butter, soups, cereal, canned vegetables, pasta, rice and more. Drop off bins have been set up at Serio’s Pizzarama at 405 Church St. and the Pool Pirate at 2205 Broncos Highway. Thanks to a collaboration with Berean Baptist Church, all donations this year will go directly to Burrillville families.
Many North Smithfield scouts were also out collecting bags of food, while others stayed back at Scouter’s Hall, sorting and packing donations from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The location also served as a drop off site, and those who did not receive a door hanger were invited to bring their contributions.
By the end of the day, North Smithfield scouts had loaded up four pallets with food. Anyone who missed the collection but would still like to donate can bring non-perishable items to Troop 438’s meeting on Friday, Nov. at Scouters Hall between 6:30 and 8 p.m.
Burrillville troops have collected 5.5 pallets, and drop off bins will remain at Serio’s and the Pool Pirate.
You can also support the 2021 Scouting for Food Drive in other ways. Organizers note that the individual food banks can buy the items they need most at the best prices with monetary donations, which can be made at https://rifoodbank.org/scouting-for-food/ .
Local food banks and pantries are also accepting in-person food donations including Our Lady of Good Help, operated by Katherine & Bob Wilson, at 1063 Victory Highway, which distributes food on the first Saturday of every month from 9 to 10 a.m.; and Shepherd’s Food Pantry at 854 Victory Highway, which hands out items on the last Tuesday of each month from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
Chepachet Union Church at 1138 Putnam Pike distributes to those in need from 10 a.m. to noon on the first and third Saturday of every month, and the North Smithfield Food Pantry at Slatersville Congregational Church hands out food on four dates each month on select Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Many local pantries are included in a list of Rhode Island drop off sites found here. Donors and potential recipients are advised to call ahead to confirm the program is open during regularly listed hours.
It all contributes to making the annual Scout drive the most impactful of its kind. Groups in Southeastern New England collect more than 100,000 pounds of food every year through the program, which the pantries rely on to help make sure that no one in their communities goes without.