Saturday, January 08, 2022

Pandemic-era Eagle Scout Service Project with the Boston Area Gleaners

Last summer, my son led his scout troop (Troop 355) to gather hundreds of banana boxes for a local group that fights food insecurity. This was part of an Eagle Scout Service project, which is required of all scouts seeking to attain the rank of Eagle. The following pieces of information are from the project summary he prepared.

The Boston Area Gleaners is truly a fascinating organization that not only provides fresh produce to local food banks, it also targets food waste on local farms by taking excess produce. The humble banana box is an important part of the storage and transportation infrastructure, as this video shows:

According to the Greater Boston Food Bank, the pandemic has caused food insecurity among children to rise 117% in Eastern Massachusetts so that now 1 in 5 children live in a home that is food insecure. In 2020, the Gleaners collected and distributed 8 million lbs of fresh produce to go on tables across New England. To run their operations, the Boston Area Gleaners need lots of banana boxes! 

The original goal of the project: obtain 400 empty boxes, and deliver them to the Gleaners by July 31st. This represents capacity for the Gleaners to transport 14,000 pounds of produce, enough fruits and vegetables for nearly 38,000 meals! Most cars can fit between 5 and 15 banana boxes each (bigger cars or trucks could most likely fit between 20-25 boxes).

By the end of July, scouts from Troop 355 as well as parents and siblings gathered 450+ banana boxes, and did so safely, following safe social distancing requirements. Twenty scouts from Newton and Boston took part, with support from scout parents, scoutmasters, and other members of the community.

Managers and staff at Star Market, Shaw's, Stop & Shop, Russo’s, Market Basket, and Whole Foods played a crucial role in setting the boxes aside, which otherwise would have been crushed or used for other purposes. 

It really was a great learning and leadership experience, and a great cause. Thank you all for your help!

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