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'Smelly' lunch story inspires Port Moody non-profit's new kids' book

"Mina's Lunch" will soon be available for reading in all SD43 elementary schools.
The Port Moody-based Asian Impact Society has published its anti-racism book for kids nearly a year after receiving a $5,000 grant to kickstart its campaign.

Meet Mina, a young student who just wants to enjoy her lunch.

But her classmates begin to ridicule her for its unfamiliar aroma as its a dish from her family's culture and household.

This story, simply titled Mina's Lunch, was spearheaded by a Port Moody-based organization that hopes to teach kids about racism, and how to accept all ethnic backgrounds.

The Asian Impact Society (AIS) will formally launch its new children's book later this month in celebration of the teamwork and community collaboration.

"Mina's Lunch is an uplifting re-telling of a pretty common negative childhood experience for many of us," said AIS Director Celia Chiang in a release sent to the Tri-City News.

"One day, Mina is eating in her classroom when her classmates deride her 'smelly' lunch. The way this situation is handled presents a great opportunity for discussions around multiculturalism and diversity in our schools."

The book is being published nearly a year after the non-profit received a $5,000 BC Multicultural grant for its development.

The idea stemmed from a rise in racism and hate reports since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as the virus was first detected in China.

After receiving the funds, AIS then made a public call last September for testimonies of either racist incidents, hate attacks or acts of discrimination against local residents in seeking inspiration for the book.

Stephanie Shieh's submission of being mocked while eating her lunch was the "unanimous favourite," the AIS explained.

As a result of the project, soft-cover printed copies of Mina's Lunch are set to be made available for its target audience at all 46 School District 43 (SD43) elementary schools this month.

"Young readers can empathize with Mina's emotions as she learns about cultural differences, the importance of family and ultimately, accepting herself exactly as she is," the AIS statement added.

"The book also features a comprehensive discussion guide for parents and educators."

Port Coquitlam graphic designer and author–illustrator Kirstin Hepburn fine-tuned the book and worked with AIS to bring Shieh's story to life.

Hepburn also wrote and illustrated The Lost Dumpling, a book about diversity and inclusion produced by the Asian Arts and Culture Society as part of its BC Dumpling Festival campaign.

The Mina's Lunch release event is scheduled for take place March 26, 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Coquitlam Public Library's City Centre branch.

It'll be read to those that register in advance of the free launch.

For more information, you can visit the Asian Impact Society's website.