A local service club helping hungry students in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows is on the verge of shutting down.
The Starfish Pack Program, which has independently operated branches all across B.C., uses volunteers to pack bags full of healthy and tasty meals for school children who come from struggling families.
The Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows branch of the organization has been operating since 2016, and has helped hundreds of students in School District 42. But Ineke Boekhorst, chair of the Starfish Pack Program for Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, explained that they now face a desperate need for funding.
“We only have funding for maybe another six weeks,” said Boekhorst. “If we don’t get more, we may have to stop. We have the volunteers, but no money.”
Rising prices have put an even larger strain on local families, resulting in a 25 per cent increase in the number of students in School District 42 who are in need of food assistance, according to Starfish Pack Program volunteer Lynda Lawrence.
“In September, we started with 159 students in 16 schools, but now we’re serving 21 schools a week, which is at the max that we can handle,” said Boekhorst.
The recent flow of Ukrainian refugees has added to the problem, explained Boekhorst, adding that Maple Ridge has 50 Ukrainians right now who came over with nothing and need help from charitable services like the Starfish Pack Program.
She also noted that they currently have five schools from the local school district on the waiting list for the program, which she said is troubling considering that there are no other services to help with food security on the weekends.
The cost to feed a single student throughout the weekend with this program is $14, according to Boekhorst. But on a long weekend, it gets even pricier, rising to $21 per child.
“The cost this year could exceed $110,000 to get us through to next June,” said Lawrence.
In order to keep helping underfed children in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, the Starfish Pack Program is putting out a desperate call for more donations.
They have even set up a GoFundMe to collect contributions, which can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/f/starfish-pack.
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