Rotarian Corrine Thompson, right, receives a cheque from Cowichan Valley international students, Chenye Zhang, Dongxu Ma, and Xinqian Yang to help Nourish Cowichan’s Starfish program. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

Column: Starfish and Nourish Cowichan feeding hungry children

Cowichan has been identified as the area with the second highest child poverty rate in the province.

I was out the other day (sometimes I do leave the house) and I got to talking with the manager of one of the local Starbucks stores. And no, I wasn’t actually at a Starbucks, I make newspaper reporter money, not local government money. I was at the gym working on my fitness if you really need to know.

Anyway, she was telling my how proud she was of her staff for working so hard to raise funds for Nourish Cowichan. They’d met their goal in August to raise $1,000 — enough for 1,000 meals for hungry schoolchildren in the Cowichan Valley. They’d surpassed $1,400 earlier this month and then hit $1,500 more recently — good enough for 1,500 meals. How’s that for good news? The staff were so proud and they’d set their sights even higher. But then something awful happened. A brazen thief walked into the store, grabbed the donation box and took off, right in front of their eyes.

“They were heartbroken,” said the manager. “Because there must of been $50 or $60 in there and that meant 50 or 60 meals for hungry kids were gone.”

Cowichan has been identified as the area with the second highest child poverty rate in the province.

It wasn’t a massive sum that was stolen but that money mattered.

Those meals mattered.

The Nourish Cowichan Society is a charity organization whose aim is to feed school breakfasts (and other various snacks) to Cowichan’s hungry children. Co-founded by Dina Holbrook, Anita Carroll and Fatima Da Silva when they became aware of the sheer number of students who were going to school hungry, it took just weeks to get the organization off the ground. Now an established charitable society with a board of directors, the program is flourishing. Earlier this year they teamed up with Starfish Cowichan Valley, a volunteer non-profit group made up of members of the Duncan, Duncan Daybreak, Chemainus and South Cowichan Rotary groups along with school district officials and other supporters.

The Starfish Pack Backpack Program was created about six years ago after teachers in Abbotsford were heartbroken to learn many of their students got to school on Monday reporting they’d not eaten over the weekend. The Starfish Pack was born to send those children home with food for the weekend. Programs have since popped up all around the province, including in Cowichan.

“School District 79 initially gave us a number of 180 students that were potential candidates for the program but we’ve found out since then, we’ve increased the number twice already,” said Starfish Cowichan’s Derek Hardacker. “We’re pretty sure that 180 number isn’t anywhere near where it actually is.”

Now feeding children on weekdays and on weekends, they’re such valuable resources in the community.

Both Nourish Cowichan and Starfish Cowichan are well worth supporting. Cheques to both groups can be made payable to the Nourish Cowichan Society but donations for the Starfish Cowichan Valley sub-group should have ‘Starfish Cowichan Valley’ noted in the notations line of the cheque. Tax receipts can be issued.

And, if you’re grabbing your daily coffee at the Duncan Plaza Starbucks, the staff there would love it if you could top up their donation bin and help replace what the thief stole. Every dollar counts because every dollar equals one meal. Every kid deserves a meal and the staff are going to keep trying to raise funds to ensure that happens.

For more information on Nourish Cowichan call: 250-709-2279 or 250-701-8066 or email: nourishcowichan@gmail.com

or For Starfish Cowichan Valley information call: 250-709-1903 or email: starfishcowichanvalley@gmail.com

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Teacher Brenda Langlois joins Rotarians Dave Maandag, Richard Calverley, Derek Hardacker, Perita Van Dyke, and Corrine Thompson in supporting the Starfish program. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

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