Special to the Langley Advance
It’s heartbreaking for teachers in the Langley school district to see their students arrive to class hungry on Monday mornings.
For a number of reasons, some local students don’t have enough to eat during the weekends.
They arrive at school fatigued and have a difficult time focusing on their school work.
This is where and why the Rotary Club’s Starfish Pack program comes in, said Dorothy McKim, president of the Rotary Club of Langley Central.
Backpacks full of healthy and easy-to-prepare food are being handed out to elementary and middle school students to take home on Fridays, she explained.
There is enough food to last the weekend, a gap in time when the kids can’t rely on their schools’ hot breakfast and lunch programs.
“All the food is purchased because of its nutritional value. We have also made sure the kids will like it, so they will eat it over the weekend,” McKim said.
Fifty children have been identified as being in need of such assistance, so the Rotary Club is contributing partial proceeds from its recent 26th annual Fraser Valley Wine Fest to this new local program.
The total number of backpacks will be determined when the final fundraising total comes in, McKim said.
At a cost of $525 per student for the academic year, the backpacks contain easy-to-prepare, kid-friendly food, such as peanut butter, granola bars, cans of ravioli, and crackers that are carefully selected for their nutritional worth.
“We want to ensure it’s easy to prepare so it’s easier for the kids and families,” said McKim, adding the food, which will be donated by local grocery stores, is microwaveable if it needs to be heated.
“There is enough food for two breakfasts, two lunches and two dinners,” she elaborated.
The Starfish Pack program was started by Rotary in Abbotsford during the 2013-14 school year.
During the day, 400 students in that district use hot breakfast and lunch programs, and an estimated 300 of these students went without nutritional food on the weekends.
Thanks to the Abbotsford Rotary Club, 263 students from 22 schools were given the opportunity to take part in the program.
Other Rotary Clubs from Langley are now initiating the program locally.
In October, Rotary Club Langley Sunrise supplied 21 backpacks to Wix Brown Elementary and Coghlan Fundamental Elementary – just in time for the Thanksgiving weekend.
Aldergrove Rotary Club began its Starfish program back in April, and supports 50 students from Parkside and Shortreed Elementary schools, as well as Betty Gilbert Middle School.
Students in the leadership program at Brookswood and Aldergrove Secondary schools are helping stock the backpacks, and volunteers deliver them to the elementary schools.