More than 100 kids in North Delta will have enough to eat on the weekends thanks to a recent food drive by Delta police.
On Friday, April 26, Const. Ken Usipiuk of the Delta Police Department’s traffic unit hosted a food donation event at the North Delta Public Safety Building to collect food for the Rotary Club of North Delta’s Starfish Pack program.
The program, which is run in partnership with Deltassist and the Delta School District, provides at-risk elementary students and their siblings with food to sustain them over the weekend so that they are ready to learn come Monday morning.
“I heard through the community that [North Delta] Rotary was short resources to carry on with the Starfish Pack program to the end of the school year. Well, in my world one hungry child is one too many,” Usipiuk told the Reporter.
“Did we reach our goal? Well I think we did. Is it overflowing? No, [but] that [trailer] came empty and there’s a lot more in it now than there was this morning.”
“I can put my head down tonight and feel good.”
Dozens of residents stepped up to help fill a 53-foot tractor trailer with non-perishable food items. The event raised approximately $14,000 worth of donations, including $3,700 in cash.
The program is simple: teachers identify students in their classrooms who may not be getting enough to eat when they are at home. After asking the parents if they would like to be part of the program, the school provides the Rotary Club with the number of students at each school who will be taking part.
Backpacks are packed up by Rotary volunteers Thursday afternoon and left at the office of each elementary school on Friday so that students can discreetly pick them up at the end of the week. The bags include ingredients for three meals a day, as well as snacks and fresh fruit.
The packs, which cost $525 per child per year, are provided to the students throughout the school year, Gage said, but supplies were starting to run low and there was concern Rotary would run out of food before June.
“We now have enough food, we’ve got everything we need,” Gage said. “We’re good for June and then we’re going to have carry over into September.”
The program currently supports 64 families from eight North Delta elementary school, and Gage expects that number to go up in September.
“We’re feeding 120 children now,” Gage said, adding there are a couple more schools that Rotary wants to support in the fall. “Unfortunately, it’s a growing number.”
For Usipiuk, helping Rotary address that need is a no-brainer.
“We live in a first world country, we are rich in this country, so it breaks my heart that we have hungry kids. Imagine yourself when you’re hungry. You skip a lunch or you couldn’t get your breakfast, one o’clock in the afternoon rolls around and maybe you can’t think straight. Well imagine being a child and sitting in a classroom and you’re hungry. I think about that and it’s just like, ‘I’ve got to help.’”
Usipiuk brought the idea of the food drive to his superiors at the DPD and they were happy to offer their support.
“When the community calls and asks for help, well that’s our job.”
Friday’s food drive may be over, but donations are still being accepted at the North Delta Public Safety Building (11375 84th Ave.) and at DPD headquarters in Ladner (4455 Clarence Taylor Cres.).
— with files from Grace Kennedy