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Scouting for Food, the county’s biggest food drive, is set for next month

Scouting For Food scouts (courtesy photo)

The Arlington Food Assistance Center is preparing for its largest single-day food drive.

As food prices continue to rise across the country, Scouting for Food — an annual event held in partnership with local Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs — has taken on new urgency.

On Saturday, Nov. 5, Boy Scouts will go door to door and distribute bags to houses in the county so that residents can gather non-perishable food inside of them. The scouts return the following Saturday to collect the donations and bring them to Savior Lutheran Church, to be sorted by volunteers.

The food is then delivered to AFAC, where additional volunteers prepare it for distribution.

The drive has collected over 1 million pounds of food since 1995, and AFAC CEO Charles Meng says in recent years it has brought in upwards of 55,000 pounds of donations.

“And that’s desperately needed by the families who come to us,” he said.

Even in one of the wealthiest counties in the country, thousands of families are dealing with food insecurity.

The Arlington Food Assistance Center distributes food six days a week at its 2708 S. Nelson Street location. Meng says there has been a sharp increase in need since January and the center currently serves around 2,500 families, or roughly 8,000 individuals. He says a third of them are children.

“At this time of the year, we’re normally serving closer to 2,000 families a week, but we were up to 2,468 families last week, and that’s been increasing at about 25 to 30 families a week,” he said, adding that if the trend continues for a few more weeks, the demand will exceed the peak of the pandemic.

AFAC pays for 60% of the food it distributes, and higher food prices and increased demand are just two reasons Meng says this event is essential to the center.

“More families are coming to us, and so we need more food to give to them, which means we’re buying more, but we’re also buying it at a far higher price.”

He says the center is somewhat unusual because it purchases food to give away, whereas most food pantries only donate food given to them.

“So the Boy Scout food drive, being a national effort, really helps everyone throughout this country, and especially those food pantries that really don’t have the resources to purchase food,” he said.

The Arlington Food Assistance Center also holds food drives in various locations across the county, including at Arlington public libraries. Meng says the drives are critical as the holiday season approaches.

“During the holidays, it’s really important,” said Meng. “It’s one of the best ways to get the kind of food that our families like and will eat.”

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