Backpack Buddies for back to school at Coquitlam Centre

Shoppers can help fill bags to feed hungry children in the area on weekends

Anyone stocking up their backpacks for school at Coquitlam Centre on the last Saturday before classes begin is being asked to help fill backpacks with food for hungry children.

As part of its 40th anniversary celebration, the mall is teaming with the Backpack Buddies program on Aug. 31. The Community First Foundation's initiative distributes enough food for a weekend to students whose families struggle to put food on the table.

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"We basically fill the hunger gap for the weekend," said Vishad Deeplaul, marketing and communications coordinator for Community First Foundation which runs the program.

This year, Deeplaul decided to organize his seven-year-old son Zrav's school, Pinetree elementary, as a donor school that donates to the program each month with the food being distributed in the Tri-Cities area. The first school in the region to join the program, which started in 2012, was Meadowbrook elementary in Coquitlam a year ago.

In the 2018/19 school year, Backpack Buddies distributed to schools in Metro Vancouver nearly 25,000 bags of food, more than 3,000 a month, from 18 donation schools to 48 recipient schools.

On Aug. 31, shopping families are encouraged to donate $10 and then pack a backpack themselves. Deeplaul said it's an opportunity to teach children how other kids aren't as fortunate and show them they can actually make a difference.

The event will be held between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the mall's event central area on the upper level by lululemon athletica. The first 100 who donate $10 will receive a $10 gift certificate.

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