(Photo contributed) Left to right: Brad (from Save-on-Foods), Kirstie Blanleil (Area Director, Okanagan Boys & Girls Club), Dr. Carmen Larsen (Starfish Pack Program Director), Mary Jackson, Sarah Pruckl, Jim Ferguson, Navi Dhaliwal. (Photo contributed)

Vernon Starfish Pack celebrates provincial milestone

Vernon currently delivers 93 backpacks to elementary schools and feed about 130 kids each week.

Vernon’s Starfish Pack program recently celebrated its local contributions to the provincial program feeding over 1,200 students in need every weekend during the school year.

The program began seven years ago with a single school in Abbotsford feeding six students and has now grown to 18 B.C. communities, serving 116 schools across the province. The program now also spread to Washington State with Starfish Packs USA launching the program in Whatcom County.

The Vernon Starfish Pack currently delivers 93 backpacks to School District 22 (Vernon) elementary schools. Each backpack feeds about 130 children in Vernon each week.

Related: Vernon Starfish Pack Program grows

Related: Starfish program expands in Vernon schools

Starfish Packs provides two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and snacks every Friday for local students who depend on in-school breakfast or lunch programs during the week. Each program is run by partnerships between local service clubs, non-profits, businesses, and individuals. At a cost of $525 per child for the school year, all of the locally donated dollars stay in the community and 100 per cent of those funds are spent on purchasing food for local children.

Though local organizers are celebrating the 1,200-student provincial milestone, they said the work is far from done.

“We started a pilot program with 20 backpacks in April 2016,” said Carmen Larsen, Kalamalka Rotary and Starfish Pack Program Director. “We had overwhelming support for the program from students, parents, and the community. With the continued support from individuals, businesses and organizations, we can continue to expand this program to meet the needs of many children who go hungry on weekends.”

Provincially, it is estimated that about one in five children live in poverty and routinely go more than a full day without eating the adequate number of calories for healthy living and growth. Experts often point to a lack of food security for school-age children being a significant factor in both academic success and future lifestyle. Children wondering about when they’ll eat next don’t learn as well as those who are fed.

“Starfish Pack is a practical way to tackle poverty that is affecting our next generation,” said Larsen. “We want to provide nutritious food to all children who need it, to make sure they are able to thrive in school, and in life. For only $525 we can feed a child for a full school year and give them a proper start to the rest of their life.”

To find out more about the Vernon Starfish Pack program, go to https://starfishpack.com/vernon/

Related: Starfish program packs helpful punch

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