Aldergrove Secondary School volunteers such as Brody Dunwoody helped pack the first “Starfish food backpacks” last week for delivery to local elementary school students who need help with meals over the weekends.

Aldergrove Secondary School volunteers such as Brody Dunwoody helped pack the first “Starfish food backpacks” last week for delivery to local elementary school students who need help with meals over the weekends.

Aldergrove students share some ‘food for thought’

Alleviating hunger locally and abroad was the thrust of the day at Aldergrove Secondary school on Thursday, April 9.

Alleviating hunger locally and abroad was the thrust of the day at Aldergrove Secondary school on Thursday, April 9.

The school’s Global Education and Leadership class and Langley-based Food for Famine Society co-hosted an event titled United Against Hunger and Poverty in the morning and during lunch hour.

Then in the afternoon the school helped pack the Starfish food backpacks for elementary school students who need help getting through the weekends when in-school breakfast and lunch programs aren’t operating.

The Food for Famine program included musical and dance numbers by the visiting Japanese dance troupe Terakoya as well as Aldergrove students Danielle Longpre and Ashley Taylor in the school’s dramnasium.

PHOTO: Japan’s Terakoya dance troupe performed at Aldergrove Secondary’s event.

However, the emphasis was on raising awareness of programs such as Food for Famine, Mana Nutrition and Breakfast Clubs of Canada. Guest speakers representing these organizations spoke to the student assembly about their programs.

Maria Martini founded Food for Famine in Langley after deciding to do something practical to help feed malnourished children in poverty-stricken countries. Her journey started in June 2008, when she learned how a fortified peanut paste known as Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) was being used to treat Severe Acute Malnutrition. This knowledge altered the trajectory of her life forever.

“The miracle of a simple, fortified peanut butter paste that could save the lives of children was astonishing to me. Children no longer needed to die,” says Martini.

PHOTO: Food for Famine’s Maria Martini feeds RUTF to a child in Africa.

RUTF (Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food) fortified peanut paste that’s been carefully formulated to provide all of a child’s basic nutritional needs. It has been heralded by Doctors Without Borders as a miraculous cure for children suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM). These are children whose malnutrition is so acute that the most likely prognosis is death. RUTF can bring these children back from the brink of death.

RUTF has been revolutionary because it does not require water, refrigeration or preparation, which makes it the ideal product for treating children with SAM in their communities.

To date, FFF has provided a total of 17 shipping containers of RUTF to Burundi, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Malawi, Mali, South Sudan and Uganda. A full 100 per cent of donations received by FFF go towards the purchase of RUTF.

PHOTO: Aldergrove Secondary students manned information booths at lunch time, May 9.

The Starfish food backpack program was launched last week as an initiative of the Aldergrove Rotary Club, with the help of partners such as Encompass Society and local grocers Otter Co-op, Aldergrove Safeway and Aldergrove Save-on Foods.

Starting this past weekend selected elementary school students in Aldergrove are taking a weekend’s worth of food home with them every Friday. It’s 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.

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.

Aldergrove Rotarians Paul Guiton and Pauline Buck have taken on the project in Aldergrove and after several months work they plan a test launch of the Starfish backpacks on Friday, April 10.

They have secured funding for 20 backpacks until the end of the current school year, to be shared by Parkside and Shortreed elementary schools in Aldergrove.

Aldergrove Rotarians will be working on soliciting funding to expand the program for the entire school year next fall, and Guiton and Buck are confident that goal will be achieved.

“It looked like it would be a challenge but it really hasn’t been,” said Guiton. “People are falling over to help when we asked them to join us. We have some great community partners we’ve engaged to help us do it.”

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.

Aldergrove Rotary Club is currently developing a new website for the Aldergrove Starfish program, which will be www.starfishpack.ca, and tax deductible receipts will also be issued to donors.

Aldergrove Rotary’s goal is to have 40 Starfish packs sponsored by the start of the new school year.

In the meantime the public may direct queries about the program to Aldergrove Rotarian Pauline Buck at 604-812-1995.

Student volunteers at Aldergrove Secondary school and members of the Aldergrove Fire Hall teamed up with Aldergrove Rotary Club to pack 20 backpacks for the new Starfish program that provides a weekend’s worth of food for elementary school students.