Ken Etter, senior executive for Scouting’s Osage District, said as he drove around the morning of Nov. 20 and it seemed like more people set out bags filled with food during the Scouting for Food drive than in previous years, and the houses that had bags often had more than one or even two boxes filled with food to donate.

“It seems like the generosity, locally, is greater this year,” he said Saturday.

Etter’s suspicions were confirmed later that day as the final tallies came in.

Across the Osage District, which covers Franklin, Crawford and southern Warren counties, 71,500 food items were collected, more than double the 2020 totals and 10,000 more than in 2019, he wrote in an email.

Etter said he was “very surprised” and “overwhelmed with the generosity” of the communities that donated.

Washington had the highest individual total in the district with 19,042 items; Union followed with 13,086. Pacific had 8,849; Villa Ridge and Gray Summit, 8,671; Sullivan, 4,117; Cuba, 3,545; St. Clair, 3,099; Marthasville, 2,806; Beaufort and Leslie, 2,454; New Haven, 1,650; Lonedell, 1,581; Bourbon, 1,156; Steelville, 1,025; and Leasburg, 584.

The 19,000-plus food items passed through St. Francis Borgia Grade School’s cafeteria in about five hours as Scouts, leaders and volunteers unloaded, counted, sorted, boxed and delivered the donated food to local pantries.

“We couldn’t have done it without them,” Ron Kuebler, director of St. Francis Borgia Food Pantry, said.

“They (the Scouts) don’t know who this food will help, but they can see the amount of food coming in, and then when they come to the collection area, they see that the bag or two that they collected, multiplied hundreds of times over, what it looks like, and I think they see the real community impact,” Etter said.

As Thomas Branson, 7, a member of Cub Scout Pack 439, saw the line of trucks pile up on Second Street, their truck beds filled to the brim with donations collected around town that morning, he said he thought, “This is crazy.”

Branson said he enjoyed helping with the event “because I care for those that don’t have any food.”

Ben Crabtree, 13, Troop 439, echoed those sentiments, saying, “It’s a lot of food, and I’m just happy that this much food was donated.”

All food collected during the event will stay in the town it was collected. For Washington, that means donations will be distributed among St. Francis Borgia Food Pantry, St. Peter’s Food Pantry, Loving Hearts Outreach and the Pregnancy Assistance Center.

“This came just in time,” Kuebler said. “That’s going to get us at least a couple months’ supply of food.”

Kuebler said his and other local pantries had seen less traffic during the pandemic, but the number of people they served was almost back to pre-pandemic levels.

Etter said that the food drive was one of the big events the Scouts look forward to each year.

“It reminds us what we’re in this about, how we can be good citizens in our community,” Etter said.

For those interested in joining a Scout troop or pack, information can be found at beascout.scouting.org, or they can contact Etter at Ken.Etter@scouting.org.