Berks County chapters of the Boy Scouts of America collected an estimated 140,000 pounds of food for Helping Harvest Fresh Food Bank as part of its annual Scouting for Food program.

The donation was nearly double the 2019 estimate of 70,000 pounds of nonperishable food collected by local scout divisions for Helping Harvest.

Dozens of scouts, scout leaders and other volunteers assembled at multiple locations on Saturday to drop off and sort the food from various collection points across the county.

"There's always a sense of urgency to give, especially in times of need, and the Scouts are very capable of stepping up and helping out," said Jeremy Bice, a scout leader who helped oversee sorting efforts in the parking lot at the Boy Scouts' Hawk Mountain Council office in Ontelauntee Township.

A second scout leader, Bill Bandholz, observed that even though fewer households may have been in a position to donate due the impact of the coronavirus, collection efforts still prevailed.

"We found that not as many people gave as last year, but the people who did give gave more," said Bandholz. I would say while our house numbers went down, the amount of food we collected, we're 500 pieces above where we've ever been since we started keeping track.

Even young Scouts realized the added importance Scouting for Food took on in their communities this year.

"Since there's a pandemic going on and people may not have a job at the moment or have reduced income," said scout Braiden Bice, a senior leader and son of Jeremy Bice. "I know for a fact that it's helping a lot of people if we can get more food out now more than ever."

Indeed, Helping Harvest, the food bank serving Berks and Schuylkill counties, saw food insecurity rise in 2020 since the COVID-19 pandemic started in March.

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