For children from families struggling financially, often the beginning of the weekend can mean not having enough to eat. Many Penticton schools have breakfast clubs and other in-school programs that provide nutritious meals during the school week, but on the weekend children may miss out, returning to school on Mondays hungry and not in a mindset to learn. Penticton ranks in the bottom 10 cities in the province with the highest number of children and youth living in poverty.
In 2014, the Starfish Pack program was created in response to teachers hearing the cry of their students coming to school hungry. Since Starfish Pack Program was launched provincially, over 600 backpacks are being packed every week with food going home with students in 22 B.C. schools. The program will help families through a partnership the Rotary Club has formed with Penticton’s Save-On-Foods, Okanagan Boys & Girls Club and the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan starting April 3.
“Initially, we will provide 10 elementary students with a backpack every Friday afternoon with enough food to help them throughout the weekend,” said project chair, Gordon Watson of the Rotary Club of Penticton in a press release. “Starfish Packs will provide two breakfasts, two lunches and two dinners, as well as fresh fruit and snacks for local children in need to take home every weekend during school terms.”
“Save On Foods is committed to supporting the communities we serve,” said store manager Randall Bamford. “When the Rotary Club approached us for support we contacted our social partners in the community to confirm that the Starfish Pack program was indeed an area of opportunity and possibly a chance to close a gap in the very important goal of helping support children in our town. Once we had confirmed the need it was a resounding “yes” to support the Starfish Pack program. With the assistance of people in our community funding the Starfish Packs, we can keep costs down and bring in the essential products to make this a success.”
While the Penticton Starfish Pack program is starting off small, the Rotary Club believes with support of the community the program is sure to grow rapidly. The majority of the program costs consist of the food, which will be provided at cost by Save-On Foods. The cost is $535 per backpack each year, and will require a team of volunteers to meet every Wednesday afternoon to prepare the backpacks for delivery to the schools on Fridays.
If you would like to sponsor a Starfish Pack for a child, or learn how you can be involved visit www.starfishpack.com/penticton/.