Stacking cans of food and giving "high fives" to Scouts in his office, Gov. Mike Leavitt Thursday urged Scout troops to visit every Utah home Saturday in the annual "Scouting for Food" drive.

And the governor encouraged every home to "donate generously to help resolve a critical food shortage" for needy individuals and families served by the Utah Food Bank and other food banks and pantries statewide."I want you guys to say that you will do your part and give me a salute," Leavitt said in meeting with seven boys, their leaders and representatives of the Utah Food Bank of the Community Services Council.

The annual drive, conducted by the Great Salt Lake and Utah National Parks Councils, Boy Scouts of America, is critical, food bank officials say, emphasizing that it supplies the major portion of supplies needed for the entire year.

Thousands of Scouts and their leaders in the two councils will be out early Saturday morning, stopping at homes to pick up commercially canned and packaged food. Utah National Guard personnel will also be involved in boxing and transporting the food to the food bank.

Utahns in the areas served by the two Scout councils are asked to have donated food on their front porch by 9 a.m.

Paul Sabey, a professional Scouter in the Utah National Parks Council, Provo, said he expects greater response this year than last year when 19,000 Boy Scouts and 7,000 adult leaders collected 200 tons of food.

He and other Scouting leaders say they are not involved in determining to whom the food is given. That is left to agencies such as the Community Action Program, he said.

Utah National Guard personnel are heavily involved in the food drive, the largest in the state.

"We couldn't do it without them. More than 100 Guard personnel and Guard trucks will be working with Scouts and their leaders," said Paul Tikalsky, a Scouting field director for the Salt Lake council staff.

Last year more than 500,000 items, valued at more than $1 million, were collected alone by the Great Salt Lake Council in the Scouting for Food drive. Tikalsky and other Scouting leaders, including Armando P. Diaz, director of the Urban Emphasis program in the Salt Lake council; John Clay, a teacher and Scoutmaster in that program at Meadowlark Elementary School; and Rich Hawkes, a Scouting district executive say they hope this year's collection will exceed last year's drive by 30 to 40 percent.

"This is a critical food drive" for those who depend on supplies from the food bank, said food bank director Brenda Thompson.

Statewide, there's a 33 percent increase in requests for emergency food, said Dixie Burbidge, development director for the food bank.

Thompson said the Utah Food Bank particularly needs high-quality protein foods such as canned vegetables, canned fruit, canned meat and fish, peanut butter, macaroni and cheese, chili and chunky soups. This particular food drive cannot accept perishable items such as fresh meat and produce.

Deseret News staff writer Rodger Hardy contributed to this report.