About 250 Boy Scouts and their parents blanketed Napa’s neighborhoods Saturday to collect more than 10,500 pounds of food for the poor during the organization’s annual food drive, the largest in years.
The volunteers crisscrossed Napa in 50 vehicles for a few hours, picking up bags and containers filled with cans and boxes of nonperishable foods residents had left in front of their doors. The cars, SUVs and pickup trucks then headed to the Napa Valley Food Bank’s headquarters near the Napa County Airport, where the Scouts sorted the food for the charity.
“It’s just a great cause,” said Joseph Osgood, 16, a Scout with Troop 832, as vehicles arrived loaded with bags and boxes of donations for the food bank. “That’s what Boy Scouts do.”
Saturday’s food drive was Napa Boy Scouts’ largest since 2008. “I’m pretty pleased,” said Paul N. Bartelt, Scoutmaster for Troop 83 in the Silverado District.
Bartelt attributed the increase to a better economy and to a more concerted effort on the part of the Scouts, who canvassed Napa with door hangers asking residents to leave nonperishable foods outside for the boys to pick up as part of “Scouting for Food,” a nationwide event. The Scouts distributed 26,000 door hangers on Nov. 17, he said.
Since 2000, the Boy Scouts have collected thousands of pounds of food every year.
“That’s a really big amount for us,” said Shirley King, the food bank’s program director. “It kicks off our holiday food drive.”
As she spoke, dozens of Scouts sorted the cans, boxes and other items under Bartelt’s supervision. Others collected paper bags and boxes for recycling.
Rafael Banuelos, 14, a member of Troop 2, said he enjoyed helping the less fortunate. “I love doing it,” he said.
Valerie Eberling, the mother of two Scouts — Patrick, 16, and John, 14 — said she drove with Patrick in an area in north Napa while John helped sort the food at the warehouse. Eberling has volunteered for years and said she wants to continue to help with the food drive when her sons leave Scouting.
“It’s a good thing for the community,” said Eberling, a veterinarian.
King, the food bank director, said the program distributes about 2 million pounds of food to 13,000 people annually.
Over the past few years, the food bank, run by Community Action of Napa Valley, has served fewer people because many poorer families have moved out of pricey Napa County. About 14 percent of the client families live in multi-family households.
But instead of coming a few times a year, more clients come every single month for food, King said. “We’re serving them more frequently.”
The food collected during the holiday season generally lasts through March, King said.