Many Langley students could go hungry without school food programs during COVID-19 pandemic

School District Foundation to offer gift cards for hungry families during classroom closures

More than 3,000 of 23,000 Langley students come to school hungry every day says the Langley School District Foundation, specifying that many do not have breakfast in the mornings or even come with a packed lunch in hand.

The Starfish Backpack program, which began as an Aldergrove Rotary pilot project, helped make it so those students did not go home to empty cupboards.

Big blue backpacks get passed out to hungry kids, filled with nutritious foods that the child’s whole family could enjoy.

Through the Langley School District Foundation, the program Food For Thought has expanded those efforts by feeding students through breakfast clubs, weekend fuel bags, and even lunches for kids who’ve come to class without.

Susan Cairns, executive director of the Langley School District Foundation, said more than $300,000 per year is spent to help feed families.

Now, with COVID-19 closures putting a postponement on classes, she is worried those students who rely on Starfish Backpacks and breakfasts could go hungry during the pandemic.

The foundation announced that they are still committed to continuing on with Food for Thought programs, offering breakfasts, lunches, snacks and weekend backpacks to all students and families who need help, but, in a much different capacity.

READ MORE: Langley musician movies in-school songwriting program online amid COVID-19 closures

“The program will continue even when we are out of school,” she said. “We’ll make sure food is available.”

Cairns is currently working out a process where vulnerable families can shop at neighbourhood stores including Save-On Foods, Superstore, and Otter Co-op, by using gift cards provided by the foundation to help cover costs.

The foundation will purchase gift cards from each individual store and provide a list of families eligible for the financial support.

She said families will be able to do there shopping that way and will be allotted $50 each week until the end of the school closure – possibly even the rest of the school year – to make sure their children don’t go hungry.

“That equates to $200 a month and with about 1,000 families, that can easily start at $60,000 – so we need the community help to keep our programs going,” Cairns explained.

Cairns added that she is currently working on letting eligible families know how the gift cards will work and when they’ll be able to start using them.

The Foundation received funding from Breakfast Club of Canada and each of our 10 schools on the program will receive $2300 from SD35 to put in their budgets.

Cairns added that one of their major supporters has come through with 79 cases of breakfast sandwiches – that can be disbursed to those that need it.

Anyone interested in helping the program can contribute directly to the funding of those gift cards by visiting www.langleyschooldistrictfoundation.com.

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Is there more to this story?

Email: ryan.uytdewilligen@langleyadvancetimes.com

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