A new Starfish Depot in Abbotsford will help feed local students in need year round.
An extension of the Starfish Pack program – which provides backpacks full of meals for kids who may not have adequate food for the weekend – the dedicated depot expands the service for a local school and is aimed at helping entire families.
The Starfish program launched about two and a half years ago through the Rotary Club of Abbotsford and now serves 262 students at 20 different schools. The packs provide enough food for a child’s meals for the weekend.
Bruce Beck, the Rotary club’s director of community service, said at the opening of the depot on Thursday that it’s estimated about 400 students in Abbotsford are in need of the program.
The program is currently run through Rotary, the Abbotsford Food Bank and numerous donors and volunteers from the community and churches. Beck said the program is “co-operation at its finest.”
Now, the new depot, located at the Abbotsford Baptist Church, will be able to expand that program. In what organizers say they hope is the first of many depots, volunteers will help administer the backpack program as well as connect families with additional food and support.
It’s an evolution of the program, said Beck.
As the program continued, organizers realized that a student in need of food generally meant a family in need. Beck said that the vast majority of the students receiving the packs have parents who are working and parents are often going hungry to feed their children.
Beck explained that last year during the teachers’ strike, they wondered how the program could access students. Now, by providing food at the depot instead of the school, the program can access students through the summer months through a depot that is open one day a week.
Beck said people are surprised to hear – “in the shadows of our steeples and in the shadow of our silos” – that children are going hungry.
He said the volunteers who are helping are not just dealing with food, they are giving kids hope.
Dave Murray, executive director of the Abbotsford Food Bank, said it is a privilege to work with the Abbotsford Baptist Church on the new program.
John Wyness, pastor of the church, said they are happy to be a part of this program as they are floored by the statistic of kids going hungry.
The depot will serve one of the highest need schools, with 37 students taking part.
Murray said the depot works due to its proximity to the school and the necessary volunteers. After the backpack program started, they realized the need was much bigger than one backpack for a family, he said.
He said it will still be a challenge to raise the donations needed for the program.
The cost of providing weekend meals to one child for the school year is $525. Anyone who would like to contribute to the program can do so by calling the food bank at 604-859-5749 or visit the site at 33914 Essendene Ave. Cheques can be made out to the Abbotsford Food Bank with Stafish Pack Program on the notation line.
Or, donate to the program online through the BlackPress4Good page.