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Scouting for Food tradition continues with thousands of pounds collected

SALISBURY — Every year, Rowan County scouts set out with bags to drum up support for an annual program that fights hunger.

Scouting for Food, a national program, is no stranger to Rowan County. The program has grown over the past few years, and scouts this year expected to rake in about 50,000 pounds of food to donate to nonprofits. That food will go to local people in need.

The program involves scouts placing bags at local homes and coming back to pick them up a week later. Food Lion pitches in as well, and donated about 8,000 pounds of food to Rowan Helping Ministries as part of this year’s program.

Saturday was collection day, and the food was ready to head out from Food Lion No. 1 on Mahaley Avenue Saturday morning.

Scouts from troops throughout the county gathered at Rowan Helping Ministries to unpack all the food. Late morning, trucks and vans completely full of food began pulling up to the nonprofit. A swarm of scouts and volunteers unloaded vehicles in minutes, pushing carts stacked with food inside to be sorted.

Jeff Bays, field director for the Sapona District Council, said the entire district contributes to the effort. Bays said the program works well amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The kids go out in their neighborhoods and do not have to get close to or necessarily speak to people as they place or pick up the bags.

But the pandemic has impacted other programs. This year’s summer camp program required people to self-monitor for two weeks, split people up into small groups and a number of meetings have moved to the now ubiquitous Zoom call.

Bays said scouting activities such as camping are fun, but this program is one of the best things they do every year.

“People don’t understand the need that we have,” Bays said.

Rowan Helping Ministries Food Operations Manager Kristine Wiles said donations for the previous year have been slow. She said additional government assistance has helped some people, but the program reaches some people who do not qualify for food stamps but still may be in need.

For Food Lion’s part, a major part of its mission is contributing to hunger relief. Food Lion Community Relations Specialist Craig Hopkins said the company has set a goal to donate 1 billion meals by 2025.

Hopkins said the Salisbury-based grocery chain partners with Second Harvest Food bank as well as a number of smaller operations throughout the area it serves.

The donations from Food Lion on Saturday were a mix of nonperishables ranging from mac and cheese to mixed greens and tuna.

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