Rotary on track for 50 ‘Starfish’ food packs this school year

Aldergrove Rotary Club's goal is to fund 50 Starfish food packs for elementary school students in Aldergrove

The Aldergrove Rotary Club is bringing the Starfish food backpack program back to Aldergrove in September.

Aldergrove Rotary Club’s goal is to fund 50 Starfish food packs for elementary school students in Aldergrove so they be able to take a weekend’s worth of food home with them every Friday.

The initiative of the Aldergrove Rotary Club is designed to ensure that youths have food in their bellies on the days that school lunch programs are not available to the most needy. It is inspired by, and modeled after, the Starfish backpack program launched by Abbotsford Rotary Club three years ago.

The program began in the last 12 weeks of the last school year to help feed 20 Parkside and Shortreed elementary school kids on the weekends. These students were part of their school’s breakfast and/or lunch programs during the week. Every Friday, participating students receive a backpack filled with two breakfasts, two lunches and two dinners to last them for the weekend.

The empty packs are then returned and refilled for the following week, thanks to volunteers who shop for the items, fill the backpacks and deliver them to the schools.

The cost of providing the backpacks for one child for the school year is $525, which comes from donations from local organizations, individuals, businesses and churches.

Aldergrove Rotarians Paul Guiton and Pauline Buck have taken the lead on the project in Aldergrove and have raised funding for 25 backpacks so far. Their goal is 50 backpacks, 20 each for Parkside and Shortreed students and 10 for Betty Gilbert middle school students.

Donors this year so far include Aldergrove Credit Union and Otter Co-op (five backpacks each), Marnor Holdings (two backpacks), Poppy Estates and JD Farms (one backpack each). There has also been about $3,000 donated by individuals in the community.

Rotary treasurer Gus Hartl said fundraising will be ongoing through the coming months to raise funds for another 25 backpacks and to keep the program going into future years.

Three local grocers — Safeway, Save-on Foods and Otter Co-op — are providing food at reduced prices to the Starfish program.

Sarah Barber, a nutritionist from Encompass society (formerly known as Aldergrove Neighbourhood Services) is be doing the shopping and advising on the contents of the backpacks, to provide maximum nutrition and ease of preparation for the youths.

The backpacks will be filled every Friday by community service volunteers from the Aldergrove Secondary Student Leadership program. They will be assisted by mentors from the Langley Township Fire Fighters charitable association.

Both elementary schools already have breakfast and snack programs in place during the school week through Breakfast Canada, and will identify the students most in need of the food packs.

The backpacks have been supplied by Unitex of Abbotsford, which “gave us a fantastic deal on them,” said Buck.

The public can sponsor a Starfish Pack in three ways:

• To receive a tax receipt, donate online at: www.starfishpack.ca

• Mail your cheque to program partner: Encompass Support Services Society: 20618 Eastleigh Crescent, Langley, B.C. V3A 4C4

• If you don’t need a tax receipt, mail your cheque to the Aldergrove Rotary Club, P.O. Box 1602, Aldergrove, B.C. V4W 2V1

Be sure to specify “Starfish Program” on the cheque.

For more information on how the program works and to donate online, visit www.starfishpack.ca