In one of Orange County's largest annual food drives, the Boy Scouts of America are setting out today to collect half a million pounds of canned goods for the needy.
The seventh annual Scouting for Food project is part of a nationwide effort by the Boy Scouts to ease hunger in America.
The Orange County drive will involve an estimated 29,000 Scouts who will distribute plastic donation bags to 660,000 households through Nov. 17, Scouting officials said.
The massive collection will conclude Nov. 18 with Scouts and members of the National Guard bringing the canned goods to local churches.
The goods will be trucked from there to the Food Distribution Center in Orange, a private nonprofit organization that assists 284 agencies, including the Salvation Army, soup kitchens and religious organizations.
"We really depend on the Boy Scouts, particularly at this time of the year," said Ron Blake, director of the Food Distribution Center. "This gives us a jump-start on the holidays."
If the goal of half a million pounds of food is reached, Blake said, a million meals will be provided to the needy. In previous years, the Boy Scouts have collected between 250,000 and 400,000 pounds of food.
Food donations are particularly needed this year, Blake said, because of the county bankruptcy, which cost some people their jobs. The food bank hopes to distribute more than 11 million pounds of food during the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.
Devon Dougherty, a spokesman for the Orange County Council of the Boy Scouts of America, said the food drive is the "single biggest good turn that we organize each year."
"It shows what an impact people working together for the common good can have on the community," Dougherty said.
About 93,000 boys and girls from the ages of 7 to 21 are involved in the Orange County Council, Dougherty said, making it the eighth-largest Scouting program in the nation.
Scouting for Food organizers say they expect about half of the canned goods collected this year to come from the house-to-house campaign. Food donations will also be accepted at Denny's restaurants in Orange County from Nov. 19 to 26.
Joe E. Herrera, a marketing director for Denny's, said peanut butter and canned meats, fruits and vegetables are most needed.