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Local Boy Scouts help fight hunger with food drive

COVINGTON - Boy Scouts in Newton and Rockdale are waging a fight against hunger with a mission called Scouting for Food.

The Scouts will be collecting canned goods and non-perishable items beginning this Saturday from neighborhoods and patrons of local grocery stores.

More than 7,000 Scouts across the metro Atlanta area will participate in the food drive through the Atlanta Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. This is the first time in 14 years the council has held a food drive, but Scouts in the Yellow River District, covering Newton and Rockdale, do this every year, said Rick Gunter, the district's chairman for Scouting for Food.

Last year, they collected 16,000 cans and Gunter estimates they've collected more than 1 million since they started 15 years ago.

The food will be donated to food pantries in Newton and Rockdale counties, as well as food pantries run by area churches, Gunter said.

"At this time with the economics the way they are, more people are requesting more help from the food pantries. It doesn't matter if you give one can or 100 cans, all of it will be appreciated and used," he said.

Between 1,200 and 1,500 local Scouts representing 50 units will be canvassing neighborhoods and asking for donations outside grocery stores. Some have already started dropping off Publix grocery bags at some residences, along with a note asking for donations. The notes include a date the Scouts will return to pick up the bags. The drive runs through March 28.

Gunter said about 95 out of 100 people who are approached donate.

"That says a lot about the folks here in Newton and Rockdale, how generous they are," he said.

One donation that stands out happened last year at a local grocery store. A man entering the store promised he'd come out with a few cans. When he returned, he had more than 100.

"He said about a year ago he had been out of work and the food pantry had helped his family through about four months and he wanted to give back," Gunter said.

The Atlanta Area Council is partnering with Publix Super Markets, the Atlanta Community Food Bank and WXIA-TV for the food drive.

"Helping those in need through service is the foundation upon which Scouting was built," said Michael Heekin, Atlanta Area Council board member and chair of Scouting for Food. "Scouting for Food is an important project that makes it easy for area residents to join the Boy Scouts in the fight against hunger and help the needy in our community."

The Scouts have been answering that call for nearly a century, according to a press release issued by the Atlanta Area Council. During World War I, Scouts planted vegetable gardens to provide food for the hungry. President Franklin Roosevelt called on Scouts to collect food for the needy during the Great Depression, and "Victory Gardens" were planted by Scouts during World War II.

For more information on Scouting for Food, visit www.atlantabsa.org or contact Jenna Knight at 770-956-3178.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.