More Starfish Backpacks are needed, but more help is needed to ensure students are getting enough to eat on weekends.
Ineke Boekhorst is president of Meadowridge Rotary, which launched the Starfish Backpack project in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows at the end of September.
The Starfish program has brought to light a much greater need than thought existed.
“We had no idea it’s as bad as it is.”
Students, identified by their schools, are given a backpack filled with food to take home on Friday afternoons.
Each backpack contains food for two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and snacks.
In Maple Ridge, all the food is provided by Save-On Foods at Valley Fair Mall at cost.
The Meadowridge Rotary club provides the backpacks, which are filled with food by volunteers at Burnett Fellowship Church in downtown Maple Ridge, then delivered to participating schools.
So far, there are five elementary schools involved – three in Maple Ridge and two in Pitt Meadows.
In total, 24 backpacks are issued each week, 18 provided by Meadowridge and six by the Haney Rotary Club.
But there are requests for more.
“We have so many requests from different schools for backpacks, including one secondary school now,” Boekhorst said.
“But we have no more funding and are unable to distribute anymore backpacks at this time.”
The Meadowridge club is currently selling Christmas plants – cyclamen and poinsettias – with all proceeds going towards more backpacks.
The club will also be selling plants at Ridge Meadows Hospital on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The cost is $15 each or three for $40.
Westminster Savings, on 224th Street in Maple Ridge, has sponsored five backpacks, including two by staff, and is now collecting donations for the program in its lobby, offering Starfish-shaped cookies to encourage contributions.
Still, Boekhorst added, more sponsors are needed.
The cost to sponsor a backpack for one child for a year is $525, which is tax deductible.
The Rotary clubs are covering expenses not related to the direct cost of the food, including the backpacks – $35 each.
Boekhorst said one school needs more than 50 backpacks.
“There is a lot of need.”
To order Christmas plants for delivery in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, call 604-467-2420 or visit meadowridgerotary.ca. Every plant comes with a hand-made Christmas card, for gift-giving.
Starfish Packs Maple Ridge will be adding more backpacks as more community donations come in: http://starfishpack.com/meadowridge/#donate