Starfish Pack Program Supporting Families in North Okanagan

Published July 11, 2016 15:43

Can you imagine what it is like to go through a weekend without eating a nutritious meal and trying to go back to school Monday morning and learn?

According to First Call, BC’s Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, who produces a report card on the state of child poverty in BC each year, 1 in 5 BC children grew up in poverty, in every part of the province in 2015. In the North Okanagan, 21.1 % of children 0 to 17 years live in low-income families. Many of these children and family are living with the reality of struggling to put a meal on the table.

The Starfish Pack Backpack Program was created in response to teachers hearing the cry of their students. Teachers were heartbroken to hear their students were coming to class Monday morning hungry, reporting that they had not eaten over the weekend.

The concept was brought to British Columbia two years ago by the Abbotsford Rotary Club and Abbotsford Food Bank who named it The Starfish Pack Program after the Parable of the Starfish, which illustrates the importance of helping even just one life in need.

When Vernon resident Cera Brown happened upon an article about the Starfish program in a Rotary magazine, she knew the program was needed in Vernon. “So I emailed Starfish inquiring about how something like this could be started,” she says. “I meant to follow up but never did.” But the seed was planted.

$525 fills one starfish pack ALL YEAR. 100% of donation goes towards purchasing food.

Each week volunteers pack two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and healthy snacks into each backpack with food for the weekend and delivered the backpacks to an elementary school for the remainder of the school year.

So the North Okanagan Rotary Clubs and Kalamalka Rotary decided to take action. Kalamalka Rotary was excited to launch a pilot project Starfish Program in Vernon. Under the leadership of Kalamalka Rotary Community Service director Dr. Carmen Larsen a committee was formed to liaise with supporters School District 22, a local elementary school, Save On Foods Vernon, The Salvation Army and the Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs. Funding for this worthwhile pilot project was provided by 20 members of the Kalamalka Rotary Club.

Starfish began in Vernon on Friday, April 8 and ran every Friday until the end of June. Twenty students from a local elementary school took home a backpack full of non-perishable food, enough for a weekend. The plan is for the program to continue in the fall and there will be an expansion by adding another school.

Help fill a Starfish Pack for a child and their family this coming school year. Click here!

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