Students in the Salmon Arm Rotary service area will be getting lunch, thanks to the vision of a mother and local business owner.
Kari Wilkinson has been co-ordinating the hot lunch program at South Broadview School for three years.
She noticed there were always a few children who didn’t take part and discovered it was because their parents could not afford to participate.
Wilkinson, a member of Salmon Arm Rotary, asked her club for $250 to make coupons that were then awarded to the children for good behaviour or for performing random acts of kindness.
“When I asked for 50 lunches over the course of the year, the board members said ‘what do you mean the parents’ can’t afford it?’ They were shocked.”
When the club was considering a community project, Wilkinson says they began asking “if there’s that many kids in one school, how many others are going to school without lunch?” and “What if we started a lunch program to address some of that need?”
And that’s exactly what Wilkinson began doing a year ago, working with Morag Asquith, School District #83’s director of instruct – student services, asking principals in the elementary schools how many of their students needed to be enrolled in the program.
“We were thinking maybe 100 kids, five days a week at $8 a week to provide lunch. That worked out to $30,000,” Wilkinson says, pointing out principals actually estimated the need to be 400 lunches.
Astonished by the high numbers, Wilkinson says Rotary members agreed they needed to deal with the issue.
The club agreed to start a pilot project in elementary schools in Salmon Arm, Silver Creek, Sicamous, Enderby, Carlin, Sorrento and Falkland.
Wilkinson says Armstrong was not included because the community has its own Rotary club and the hope is they might agree to support the program.
“This has not been done anywhere else to our knowledge,” she says, adding that when the club went looking for program partners, Askew’s Foods jumped onboard immediately.
Askew’s in turn, sought out supplier partners, with Saputo, Sun Rype, Annie’s Naturals, Nature’s Path and General Mills stepping up.
Each school will be issued two Rotary/Askew’s Lunch Program purchasing cards and purchases will be tracked.
Assigned school buyers will be encouraged to buy food that meets the BC Schools Healthy Eating Guidelines and will initiate their own plan to distribute the food without singling out students in the program.
Some suppliers will donate foods while others will issue credits for products purchased.
“We are hoping this will help the kids; you know how you feel when you’re hungry –you can’t concentrate, you get angry easily…” says Wilkinson, noting that one child who was constantly acting out last year was doing so from hunger. “We’re hoping it will improve outcomes in the classroom and encourage better attendance.”
Wilkinson says she is both excited and amazed that her vision is now being put into action.
To raise the funds Wilkinson came up with the idea of raffling off a three-minute Askew’s Shopping Spree, with a second prize of a $250 Armstrong Co-op Gas Card.
Tickets will be available at $10 each on Friday afternoons and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. until Nov. 30. at Uptown Askew’s in Salmon Arm.
“We are only selling 1,200 tickets and we’ve already got more than 200 distributed amongst our members,” Wilkinson says. “I think we’ll sell-out quickly as everyone wants the opportunity to win a three-minute shopping spree right before Christmas.”