A new initiative, the Starfish Pack Backpack program, will begin this fall providing food for hungry students over the weekends.
While the school district has breakfast and lunch programs running throughout the week, the Starfish program organizer, Rotary Club of Terrace-Skeena Valley public relations chair Ron Malmas, said there are numerous students in Terrace who don’t have easy access to food when the weekend arrives.
“I’ve heard of the need of well over 200 young voices that could be within need of this program,” he said. “This gets to assist [the student] and their family, who may not be making ends meet, to stretch their dollar a little bit further,” he said.
Started in Abbotsford in 2013, the Starfish Pack Backpack program works with community volunteers to pack two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and snacks into individual backpacks of food for students. The packs, which rotate through six meal plans, are delivered each Friday to participating schools for students to take home on the weekends.
Malmas has been involved with the program for the past four years and helped get it started in Williams Lake, where the program grew from six backpacks to 44 in one year.
Hosted by the Rotary Club of Terrace-Skeena Valley and Coast Mountain School District 82, the program’s launch at the Terrace Curling Club on August 3 raised $1,500 to buy the backpacks themselves, with 43 sponsors donating $22,575 to pay for the food. The program will launch in two schools this fall, providing 22 backpacks out of a possible 44 to start.
“It doesn’t cost the school district any money at all, it doesn’t cost any labour to the school district at all, it’s the community who delivers it to help starving children who would go without nutrition over the weekend,” Malmas said.
According to B.C. First Call’s 2017 BC Child Poverty Report Card, 153,300 children — or 1 in 5 — are growing up in poverty. When hungry, the ability of students to learn in the classroom is hindered. A 2017 Kellog Canada survey found teachers estimated that children who go to school hungry can lose about two hours of productivity per day.
Sending students home with food for the weekends can prepare them for a better Monday start, Malmas said.
“When a starving student is helped along the way where they can achieve a goal that they might not have been able to achieve with an empty stomach, things go for the greater, it’s always worked for the better.”
Terrace the 18th community in the province to bring in the Starfish Pack program, which will begin during the first couple weeks of the school year.