Penticton Starfish Pack program seeking donations to feed kids this summer

Helping hungry kids

Concerned about keeping kids fed that access food programs during the school year, the Penticton Starfish Pack project is asking the community to donate to help families throughout the summer.

Tracy Van Raes, Starfish Pack chair and Rotarian, said their team put slips of paper into all the Starfish backpacks at the end of the school year with an email address to reach out if families needed summer support.

“We immediately had four families reach out, we anticipate there will be more,” she said. “We've had Fill the Food Gap close their doors, groceries are more expensive than ever and we’ve had child poverty rates increase.”

The Rotary Club of Penticton started the Starfish Pack Program in April 2017 as a response to teachers being concerned over local elementary school kids heading home and having to worry about where food for weekend meals would come from.

The Elks Lodge helps house the food and pack the bags every week for them. The program greatly relies on community support to keep food in young kids' bellies.

Van Raes said when she put a call out on social media to the community in June asking for non-perishable food donations so that they can put some hampers together for these families, it started off bleak. They received no donations.

“At the end of June, everybody is busy — school's ending, there's so much going on in the community, the start of summer. And I think our request just kind of got [missed]. Everyone saw it, and then they forgot it,” she added.

Thankfully, when Van Raes put out the call again on Tuesday, Nor-Val Rentals Ltd. answered less than 12 hours later with a commitment to a $500 donation in food.

“I've received other donations [now] as well. So I think that it's just a busy time. And this absolutely does save us. This will help us for the next few weeks as we put together hampers for families in need.”

With plans to provide these hampers to their Starfish families until the end of August, the program will need more donations to come in.

“Things are going to get tougher,” Van Raes said.”Our schools feed them a breakfast program, a brown bag lunch program, and they've got the Starfish Pack Program available to them. And so kids are missing out on all of those programs right now. So it's gonna start to get really expensive for families. And there are only so many resources in the community.”

The program will also be taking some of those donations and supplying them to the summer school.

“There's no food programs running during summer school. We want to make sure that their brains are nourished. So we're going to be dropping off granola bars and fruit and things like that to the school.”

Non-perishable food donations can be dropped off at Total Restoration anytime Monday to Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Some donation ideas include:

  • Tins of canned meat, fish
  • KD, noodles, sauce, rice
  • Snacks like granola bars, Nutri-grain bars
  • Crackers, pancake mix, syrup
  • Oatmeal and cereal
  • Tins of canned vegetables and fruit
  • Apples, potatoes and oranges
  • Juice boxes, juice in one-litre containers

For more information on Startfish Pack and how to get involved, click here.

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