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Pilot program to feed hungry North Okanagan students over the summer

Starfish Program has seen a 66 per cent increase in the number of students served since last year

The North Okanagan Starfish Program provides nutritious food to young students, and this year the need is even greater than in years past.

The program marked its eighth anniversary this week alongside its partners, donors and volunteers.

Director of operations Darryl O’Brien said the Starfish program has experienced a 66 per cent increase in the number of students served by the program since last school year.

The Starfish program provides 240 weekend bags of food to 20 elementary, middle and alternate schools in the North Okanagan. The food bags are a lifeline for students living in a state of food insecurity, providing them with two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners, snacks, veggies and fruit over the weekends.

But the problem of food insecurity doesn’t go away when school is out for the summer.

“Without weekly support from our school food programs, we believe students are likely experiencing food insecurity when schools are closed during the months of July and August,” O’Brien said.

That’s why Starfish is piloting summer program this year.

“We couldn’t deliver this program without the support and generosity of the community who help make a difference in the lives of these students and their families,” said Mary Jackson, president of the Kalamalka Starfish Society which manages the Starfish program.

Schools identify students who don’t have enough food and arrange parental permissions. Save-On Foods provides food at cost, while Wayside delivers the bags to a packing location. Over 50 volunteers take part in delivering the food.

“Food insecurity affects 18 per cent of families in B.C. and it’s hitting our communities hard,” said Jackson. “The rising costs of food and housing make it challenging for families to ensure their children have enough to eat. This isn’t just about filling stomachs; it’s about creating an environment where every child can thrive. Regular, nutritious food improves student health, learning and overall well-being.”

One thankful family shared: “The weekend food has helped to fill the gaps when we have no money left at the end of the month.”

The Starfish program is launching its spring fundraising campaign to provide a summer program and weekend bags for hungry students in the 2024-25 school year. Anyone can visit to donate or learn more about the program.

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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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