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How the Starfish Pack Program Helps Feed Hungry Kids in Vernon

 

The day that Kalamalka Rotarians heard the Abbotsford Rotary Club talk about the Starfish Pack Program, they immediately saw the value in helping to feed hungry school children on weekends.  Less than two months later, a pilot program, organized and funded by Kalamalka Rotarians, was initiated at a Vernon elementary school.

 

The program addresses food insecurity and hunger by providing a weekend knapsack of two breakfasts, two dinners, fresh fruit and snacks for local elementary school children in need.

“We started a pilot program with 20 backpacks in one school in April 2016,” explains Dr. Carmen Larsen, Starfish Pack Program Director for Kalamalka Rotary.  “We had overwhelming support for the program from students, parents and the community and as a result, we have been able to expand the program over the past year to 52 backpacks.  “Beginning in April 2017, thanks to more recent donations, there will be 67 backpacks delivered to children at four elementary schools in Vernon.”

With the support of individuals, businesses, and organizations, we can continue to expand this program to meet the needs of many children who go hungry on weekends.

 

 

Kalamalka Rotarian Dr. Carmen Larsen, Starfish Pack Program Director

 

Starfish Pack Program Partners and Supporters at the 1st year Celebration – April 2017

 

 

 

“Thanks to more recent donations, there will be 67 backpacks delivered to children at four elementary schools in Vernon.”

Vernon Mother

“The program helps me to get my daughter to try foods she wouldn’t normally. She’ll try anything new if it comes in the backpack. She loves the fresh fruit, applesauce and the healthy cereal. Alphagetti is her favourite,” says a parent of her daughter in the second grade. “She is proud she is responsible about remembering to pick up the pack on Friday and return it on Monday.”

School Principal

“Teachers love the program because they know the kids in need in their classrooms will be fed on the weekend,” says a school principal. “Parents are very appreciative. The program is helping us to build positive relationships with parents we were not able to reach before. When children are well fed their behaviour problems decrease right away and their ability to focus increases.”

Champion Donor - Tolko

“We were made aware of Starfish Packs through our employees and quickly saw this as a program we needed to get behind. We are proud to support them and look forward to partnering with this exceptional group of people to support children and their families in our community,” says Brad Thorlakson, Tolko’s President and CEO. “At Tolko, we want our people to be proud, not only of the work we do, but of the difference we make in our communities. Working with the Starfish Pack not only aligns with Tolko’s strong family values, it is something we can all be proud of each day.”

Kalamalka Rotary

“Without the partnership with School District 22, Okanagan Boys and Girls Club, Save-On Foods and Sun FM and the support of the Salvation Army, this program would not have been possible. This program relies on the generosity of community businesses, individuals and organizations,” explains Dr. Carmen Larsen, Starfish Pack Program Director for Kalamalka Rotary.

Vernon Mother

“We are on a low income, so with three kids the program helps us a lot. My son is very excited to get the backpack on Fridays. He loves the healthy cereal with almonds and the granola bars. He unpacks it all himself, puts things away and helps to plan dinners for the family.”

Champion Donor – Great West Equipment

“We support the Starfish Program as we want to support the community in areas that to us make a meaningful impact,” says Rob Rintoul, Chief Financial Officer for Great West Equipment. “Youth is often our focus as there is great potential in every child. Giving them an opportunity to succeed with healthy food is something we felt fit our support objectives and is a great program we hope takes hold in many other communities.”

School Principal

“On weekends many of the children who rely on weekday breakfast and lunch programs go without eating until they return to school, so the Starfish Program helps to address this need.”

Okanagan Boys and Girls Club - Kirstie Blanleil, Area Director

"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.”

Don Hanson and Maritza Reilly of Tolko. Each week Tolko employees help to pack the Starfish knapsacks.

 

How Does the Program Work?

This program addresses food insecurity and hunger by providing a weekend knapsack of two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners, fresh fruit and snacks to local elementary school children in need.

With the support of School District 22, elementary schools are selected for participation in the program.  The schools then identify students who would benefit from a Starfish backpack and arrange appropriate permissions with their families.

Every Friday after school, students who are part of the Program pick up their knapsack at school and return the empty backpack the following week for refilling.  There is normally sufficient food to provide nourishment for other family members as well.

Kalamalka Rotarians, Tolko employees, and other community volunteers help to fill the backpack with foods, provided at cost by Save-On-Foods, at the Salvation Army warehouse.  The packs are then delivered by Okanagan Boys and Girls Club and picked up the following week by volunteers.

Typical knapsack of non-perishable food and fresh fruit. The menu is rotated on a five week basis.

 How You Can Help…

The Starfish Pack Program is named after the well-known Parable of the Starfish, which illustrates the importance of helping even just one life in need.  You can also be part of helping an elementary school student thrive!  If you are already a supporter, you can help sustain the Program and help to reach more children.

“Without the partnership with School District 22, Okanagan Boys and Girls Club, Save-On-Foods and Sun FM and the support of the Salvation Army, this program would not have been possible.   This program relies on the generosity of community businesses, individuals, and organizations,” Rotarian Dr. Carmen Larsen explains.

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.

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 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.

 

Volunteers packing the backpacks

Thank you for Supporting VERNON Starfish Pack!

$525 feeds one child for one school year.

Donations by drop off or mail:
Please make the cheque to Okanagan Boys and Girls Club, 3300 37 Avenue, Vernon V1T 2Y5. Specify Starfish Pack Program in the memo line.

ONLINE Donations: Please SELECT ‘Starfish Pack Program – Vernon’ from the dropdown list.


Contact Form

For more information about the new Vernon Starfish Pack please contact Carmen Larsen or fill out the form here.

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