Published September 30, 2016 21:25
With the start of a new school year, the Starfish Pack Program will be launching an expanded program for its first full year of operation in Vernon. This program addresses food insecurity and hunger by providing a weekend knapsack of two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners, fresh fruit and snacks for local elementary school children in need.
“We started a pilot program with 20 backpacks in one school from April to June last year,” explains Dr. Carmen Larsen, Community Services Director for Kalamalka Rotary. “We had overwhelming support for the program from students, parents and the community and as a result, we are able to expand the program to 40 children at two elementary schools in Vernon.”
“Without the partnership with School District 22, Okanagan Boys and Girls Club and Save-On Foods, this program would not have been possible. This program has been supported by a number of businesses and organizations, such as Sun FM, Salvation Army, Great West Equipment and numerous donors, which is important as this program is community funded and relies on a team of volunteers,” Larsen adds.
Lack of access to food affects children and family in many ways. Children have difficulty learning and concentrating at school if they are hungry. Children have more difficulty fighting disease and maintaining health without regular access to food. The number of children who could benefit from this program in Vernon is staggering.
"There are many reasons families are struggling with food insecurity, unforeseen circumstances such as unemployment, lay-offs, health concerns and limited income. The Starfish Pack program supports local families facing these challenging circumstances. Meal times provide an opportunity for parents to make connections with their children and support healthy development. We are proud to be a part of this community initiative," adds Kirstie Blanleil, Area Director for the Okanagan Boys and Girls Club.
While in school, breakfast and lunch programs provide a basic level of food security during the school week for some students, but during weekends many of the children who rely on those school programs go without eating until they return to school on Monday morning.
The Starfish Program was brought to British Columbia two years ago by the Abbotsford Rotary Club and Abbotsford Food Bank who named it The Starfish Program after the Parable of the Starfish, whichillustrates the importance of helping even just one life in need. What started at a single school in Abbotsford in the spring of 2013 has grown to over a dozen B.C. communities. Starfish Packs will be delivered this school year in Abbotsford, Surrey, Chilliwack, Delta, Aldergrove, Langley, Mission, Coquitlam, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Port Coquitlam, Vernon and Williams Lake. All donations remain in the communities where they are made.
At a cost of $525 per child for the school year, the program spends $15 per week to provide six meals in each weekend backpack. Working with the local Save-On Foods at Village Green Mall, which provides Starfish Packs with the weekly groceries at cost, the Starfish Pack Program is maximizing every single donated dollar and working towards its goal to change the world, one child at a time.
To find out more, or to make a donation, visit http://starfishpack.com/vernon/.
For more information please contact: Dr. Carmen Larsen, Community Service Director
Kalamalka Rotary Club