A Kalamalka Rotary program that seeks to feed children in need is growing.
The Starfish Pack Program has gone up to 93 backpacks in eight schools, up from 20 in one school during the April 2016 pilot.
“We couldn’t do it without community support,” said Dr. Carmen Larsen, program director. “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 two years to 93 backpacks in eight schools in Vernon, Lumby and Lavington including the Alternative Learning Program.”
The Starfish Pack Program provides a weekend rucksack filled with two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners, fresh fruit and snacks to elementary students in need.
Kalamalka Rotary met program partners Thursday to celebrate the second anniversary of the Starfish Pack Program in Vernon, where supporters were recognized for their outstanding contribution. The meeting also kicked off fundraising efforts for the coming school year. At the meeting, Tolko President Brad Thorlakson presented Kalamalka Rotary with an $8,000 cheque for the program.
Tolko was recognized as a champion for their significant contribution of more than 15 backpacks this year. Employees from Tolko also volunteer each week to pack, deliver and return backpacks for children in Lumby and Lavington.
“For us, we are very thankful. We wouldn’t be able to service that area without Tolko’s support,” Larsen said.
Thorlakson said it’s a cause they are happy to support.
“The easy part is paying the cheque,” Thorlakson said. “The real heroes are the teachers and volunteers.”
“We are pleased to be working with Kalamalka Rotary again this year and look forward to actively participating in this wonderful program,” added Tanya Wick, Tolko vice president of people and services and senior leader responsible for community investment.
Larsen said the Starfish Pack Program wouldn’t be possible without the tremendous community support and partners, including School District 22, Okanagan Boys and Girls Club, Save-On Foods, Sun FM and the Salvation Army.
“I’m a strong believer and advocate that children are our future,” said Gerran Thorhaug of Browns Socialhouse. “All children should be given a chance to succeed. I see the Starfish Pack Program as a tool for kids to be able to get a healthy meal and that chance to succeed.”
Joe Rogers, Vernon School District superintendent, agreed.
“We’re really pleased with our partnership with Rotary. This is a great community program,” Rogers said. “We all know kids who are hungry can’t learn. I don’t know if you can be interested in integers if you’re hungry.”
After reaching a target of about 140 backpacks, Larsen hopes to expand the project into Armstrong and support older students.
Backpacks are provided at a cost of $525 per child per school year, with $15 spent for six meals per backpack each week. Save-On Foods at the Village Green Mall provides the program with groceries each week at cost to maximize each donated dollar.
Donations go directly towards backpacks, with administrative costs covered through other Rotary initiatives. All forms of donations are accepted. For more information or to make a donation, visit starfishpack.com/vernon.