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‘Scouting for Food’

Local Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts collecting food for charities.

Nov. 4 approximately 1,500 Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts will fan out across the county giving every house they go to an empty grocery bag. A week later those 1,500 Scouts will return to each home, hoping to take with them a grocery bag full of food.

Every year, local Cub and Boy Scouts collect food from residents as part of a nationwide community service project called "Scouting for Food."

"It is a way to do a good turn for the community through the Scouting community," Brian Shiflett, the county's Scouting for Food coordinator, said.

WHILE THE PROJECT occurs nationwide, the local Scout troops and packs work to take the project one step further, working closely with local charities and human services efforts that go on throughout the county.

"We want to address the unacceptable hunger in our community," Janet Rodriguez, a mother and Cub Scout den leader, said.

The Scouts will be collecting food on behalf of the Community Holiday Coalition, LINK Inc., and Messiah's Market.

"We have been able to tailor the program to meet [the organizations’] needs," Shiflett said. "We've been able to get better organized because of it."

The Community Holiday Coalition's annual program "Neighbors Helping Neighbors," assists 1,200 to 1,300 families each Thanksgiving and Christmas season. The organization puts together holiday food baskets, personal care baskets, new clothing, toys and more for families in need.

"The food donated by the community and collected by the Scouts makes sure that the Community Holiday Coalition can provide food for the holidays to our friends and neighbors," Karen Velez, holiday program coordinator for the Department of Social Services, said in a press release.

LINK is an all-volunteer organization comprised of 16 Herndon and eastern Loudoun churches, which provides emergency food distribution year round as well as giving holiday baskets and providing holiday meals and a full week of food at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

In 2004, Messiah's Market, a year-round food distribution market at The Community Church in Ashburn, became the third recipient for Scouting for Food, receiving enough food last year to last several months.

"It was a natural fit to work with these organizations," Shiflett said. "This is a one time shot for us, but they're giving out food every week."

WHILE THE SCOUTS are accepting all types of food, Shiflett said they are really pushing to receive peanut butter and breakfast cereal this year.

"We want to see all families receive those two items," he said.

The emphasis is on peanut butter and breakfast cereal because of the amount of nutrition in every jar of peanut butter and the importance of eating breakfast every day.

"Every year we found we would run short of cereal and peanut butter and we would have to go out and buy some," Shiflett said. "We are trying to modify what we get to make the best use of the funds we have."

TO GET ORGANIZED for the event, the Scouts mapped out the entire county, dividing it up into to territories for each group.

"Almost all of the neighborhoods in the county are covered," Shiflett said.

What the Scouts are doing seems to be working, too. In 2001 the Scouts collected around 29,000 pounds of food from county residents. In 2005 that number was up to 92,000 pounds.

"It gives them a real sense of accomplishment," Rodriguez said. "That they're a part of something that really helps people."

Indeed, Shiflett said that the three charities serve approximately 1,700 families in Loudoun County, which shows how large the need for food is in the area.

"The real reason we do this, is we are trying to tell the boys this is something you should be doing throughout your life," he said.