Small acts of kindness by Delta residents are adding up to help local children facing food insecurity at home.
Last month, the Delta Community Foundation (DCF) donated a total of $1,500 to the Rotary Club of North Delta and South Delta Baptist Church, operators of the North Delta and South Delta Starfish Pack programs.
All of the money donated was collected a few coins at a time via “kindness meters” installed around the city.
Officially unveiled in November of last year, the decommissioned double-headed parking meters decorated by local art students are installed at five locations — the North Delta Social Heart Plaza, outside Sungod Recreation Centre, in Ladner Village (on 48th Avenue at Havilland Street), outside Delta City Hall and at Tsawwassen Town Centre — as part of a joint initiative by the City of Delta, the Delta School District and the Delta Community Foundation. Money left in the meters is collected and distributed by the Delta Community Foundation to local organizations that strengthen and enhance the well-being of the community.
In December of 2021, the city announced the meters had collected a total of $800, which the Delta Community Foundation distributed to Delta’s two extreme weather response shelters, located at Ladner United Church and New Hope Church in North Delta.
The donation announced on Oct. 27 is the second to come out of the kindness meter project.
“It’s to another program that directly affects the well-being of people in our community that are in need, and the people that run programs that will address those needs in a very direct way,” DCF president and board chair Gail Martin told the Reporter.
“I’ve lived in North Delta since 1973 so I’ve seen the community grow and change, and as it’s grown and changed so have the needs.”
The funds donated by the foundation, $1,200 for the North Delta Starfish Pack Program and $300 for the South Delta program, will help provide nearly 150 at-risk students at local schools with food to sustain them over the weekend so they are healthy and ready to learn come Monday morning.
“It just goes to show that those small contributions from many people really add up to something that’s going to help some of the most vulnerable in our community. This is the particular initiative this time and we look forward to many more,” director and DCF marketing and communications committee chair Stephanie Gibbs said.
Since its humble beginnings at one school in 2016, the North Delta Starfish Pack Program has expanded year after year and now serves all 14 public elementaries in the community. It’s entirely volunteer-run and the Rotary Club of North Delta’s single biggest project, costing about $87,000 a year (roughly $650 per child) and delivering around 1,300 pounds of food per week.
Each pack contains enough food for six meals, including items such as cereals, oatmeal, pasta and pasta sauce, whole wheat English muffins, whole wheat tortillas, tuna or other canned meats, a variety of soups, chilli, peanut butter, jam, canned vegetables, fresh fruit and granola bars.
On average, each Starfish Pack helps feed at least two children over the weekend, and the contents of each pack are adjusted for dietary preferences (e.g. vegetarian) and food allergies.
“The logistics takes a lot of work, but it’s fulfilling,” North Delta Rotary co-president Shawn Gold said.
“We started this year off with 36 … and we did about 116 today (Oct. 27), so it’s ramping up,” he said.
“The year before last we topped out at about 87. Last year we topped out at 134, a huge increase over previous years. This year we’re already at 116. We didn’t get anywhere [near] that number until January or February last year, so we’re early on that. This could be a bigger year than last year, which was a record.”
That increase in need is being seen in South Delta as well.
“This year we started with the biggest number we’ve ever started with just because of inflation and food prices, and so we can clearly see this is a need in our community,” Mary Grierson, community life co-ordinator at South Delta Baptist Church and administrator for the South Delta Starfish Pack Program, told the Reporter.
The program services seven of the 10 public elementary schools and both high schools in South Delta, providing 30 packs each week.
“The main thing that has impacted us this year and that we can see in all of our schools, for all of our families, is just the need is even more pressing than it has ever been because of the cost — the rise in inflation and cost of food now. So it’s a big need.”