North Delta Rotary Club looking to expand its weekend meal program for kids

The Starfish Pack program provides kids in need with enough food to feed themselves over the weekend.

The North Delta Rotary Club is asking for the community’s help to expand its Starfish Pack program

The Delta chapter of a program keeping kids from going hungry over the weekend is aiming to expand its reach to help at more schools within Delta.

The Starfish Pack program, a collaboration between the North Delta Rotary Club and the Delta School District, provides kids in need with enough food to feed themselves over the weekend.

Though in-school breakfast and lunch programs provide a basic level of food security during the school week, many of the children who rely on those school programs go without eating until they return to school on Monday morning.

In 2013, B.C. had the second highest rates of child poverty in Canada, according to the province’s 2015 child poverty report card.

“Really, there isn’t any area in our community that is untouched by this kind of need. There are families at risk dotting all over Delta,” said Delta School Board Chair Laura Dixon.

Besides keeping a child fed, Dixon said the program has a way of breaking down the barriers between local families and the school itself. For example, a child who may be seen as disrespectful could actually just be feeling the effects of not having eaten for a few days, a scenario Dixon says can stifle dialogue between teachers and parents if left undiagnosed.

The North Delta Rotary Club is asking for the community’s help to expand its Starfish Pack program which provides kids with enough food to feed themselves over the weekend.

The North Delta Rotary Club is asking for the community’s help to expand its Starfish Pack program which provides kids with enough food to feed themselves over the weekend. Photo submitted

The program began in Abbotsford in 2013 as a partnership between the local Rotary Club and the Food Bank and it quickly grew to help hundreds of children in 22 schools across the district. Since then, Starfish Pack programs have cropped up in more than a dozen cities across the province.

North Delta Rotarian Kim Kendall said the club is currently working with one North Delta school and has been approached by two others. But meals can’t be paid for with goodwill alone, and the Rotary Club wants to make sure it can feed a child for a whole year before enrolling him or her in the program.

“We will not take on a school unless we have the funds to provide backpacks,” Kendall said.

The Starfish Pack program’s growth is directly tied to the amount of money available. It costs approximately $525 to feed one student for an entire school year and thanks to Save-On-Foods at Scott Road and 72nd Ave., which provides the weekly groceries at cost, the program can maximize every single donated dollar.

Nevertheless, the Rotary Club is utterly dependent on local businesses like Save-On-Foods and community partners like Deltassist to keep the packs full week in and week out. With interest from potential sponsors growing, Kendall said the club’s going to keep serving as many kids as it can.

“We might not be able to help all the kids in Delta, but we are going to help one kid at a time.”

To find out more about the Starfish Pack program or to make a donation, go to starfishpack.com.