As they have done for nearly 30 years, Baltimore-area Boy Scouts will help the homeless and hungry with a food drive aimed at filling the shelves at food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters.
Hundreds of uniformed Scouts will fan out in their neighborhoods next weekend, distributing collection bags and asking residents to fill them with nonperishable foods throughout the following week. Each bag will come with a postcard describing the most appropriate types of food to donate.
All items are welcome, but organizers note a widespread need for hearty soup, stew or chili as well as canned tuna, chicken, salmon or luncheon meat, such as Spam. Those who work with the needy also are asking for canned fruit and vegetables, pure fruit juice, tomato and pasta sauces, all types of beans and evaporated milk.
All residents have to do is fill a bag and place it on their doorstep March 5.
"Basically, we try to make this as easy as we can," said Scott Hanson, spokesman for the area Boy Scouts Council. "Everyone understands the need that grows greater every year. Scouts are just shepherding for the cause."
A Scout will return to the home, pick up donations and take them to a collection station. From there, the food will be distributed to more than 70 organizations that feed the needy in the city and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties.
In some cases, Scouts will take the food to a pantry, sort it and stock the shelves, Hanson said.
By midwinter, many charities have exhausted donations from the holidays and are looking at empty shelves when there is a greater demand for their services. Many report record numbers of new clients in need of food, with more than 95,000 families in the metropolitan area depending on their neighbors' generosity during the annual Scouting for Food program, Scout officials said.
"We know this food will be used quickly, but it should keep pantries in good position through midspring," Hanson said.
Organizers hope to top the 2010 effort, which involved more than 12,000 Scouts and volunteers and provided more than 420,000 pounds of food to pantries that serve families throughout Central Maryland.
"This public effort gets Scouts out in their communities," Hanson said. "These Scouts are not just hiding out in the woods and camping. They are responding to a dire need."
The Baltimore Area Council Boy Scouts of America will launch its annual food drive at 11 a.m. Tuesday at its headquarters on Wyman Park Drive and recognize its partners in the effort, including Mars Super Markets, FPC Solutions, and Fox45 and the CW Baltimore.
Information: http://www.baltimorebsa.org/SFF or 443-573-2538.