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Project aims to keep Vernon elementary students fed over the weekend

Kalamalka Rotary members with Save On Foods assistant manager Brad Boivin, left, are pictured in this contributed photo.
Image Credit: Contributed
June 02, 2016 - 8:00 PM

VERNON - Efforts are underway to make sure elementary school students in Vernon don’t go hungry over the weekend.

Kalamalka Rotary recently completed a three month pilot project for the Starfish Pack Program, which provides non-perishable food to children over the weekends.

“The pilot project has shown there is a need and we can help,” rotary member Dr. Carmen Larsen says.

Since April, the rotary club has partnered with the Okanagan Boys and Girls Club, School District 22, Save-On Foods Vernon, Hi-Pro Corporate Sportswear and the Salvation Army to provide a backpack of non-perishable food each weekend to 20 Vernon elementary students.

“As a physician, I witness the medical and emotional consequences of children and families with food insecurity. There can be parental stress, childhood anxiety, failure to thrive and restricted opportunities,” Larsen says. “As a mother, these are my children’s friends and classmates. It is heart-wrenching and unacceptable for children in our community to be hungry and lack secure access to food.”

School District 22 supports the initiative and superintendent Joe Rogers says the program is providing healthy food to some of its most needy students.

“Students who have access to healthy food are better able to focus on their learning and develop skills and abilities to be successful in school and later in life,” Rogers says.

Benefits are already being seen at the elementary school where the pilot project is being offered, and the school reports that all families involved want to stay in the program.

Funding for the pilot was provided by 20 members of the Kalamalka Rotary Club, and president Mary Jackson says they are now seeking support from corporate and individual donors to expand the program into a second school.

“The cost of each backpack is $525 a year. One hundred per cent of donations go toward purchasing food for the backpacks. Tax receipts will be provided,” Jackson says.

You can support the Kalamalka Rotary Starfish Pack program here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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