Nine year old boosts dairy avail­able in city food bank


Osten Poh is spend­ing part of his sum­mer driv­ing an ini­tia­tive to pro­vide dairy prod­ucts through the Food Bank in Swift Cur­rent.

The in­spired nine-yearold is aim­ing to gen­er­ate an es­ti­mated $30,000 to en­sure a two-year sup­ply milk and but­ter can be pro­vided through the Sal­va­tion Army Food Bank.

Poh, who will be en­ter­ing Grade 5 at Swift Cur­rent's Ecole Oman School this fall, is not shy­ing away from his idea to help those less for­tu­nate in Swift Cur­rent through his idea called The Dairy Depart­ment.

“It was a year, year and a half ago, I wanted to help other peo­ple. And my mom and dad were try­ing to get it started, but we didn't know who to con­tact,” the young­ster said.

He noted that his idea be­gan when he was dis­ap­pointed to know there were peo­ple with­out enough money to buy food right in the com­mu­nity.

Osten, along with his par­ents Ramie and Shawn Poh, con­tacted the Sal­va­tion Army and met with Lor­raine Jansen-Un­rau, the Fam­ily Ser­vices/Food­bank, and Cap­tain Michael Ram­say, to ex­plore op­tions n how best to help peo­ple.

“Osten’s orig­i­nal idea started with he had the com­pas­sion to help home­less peo­ple, and that’s where it orig­i­nally started from about year and a half ago. But his con­cern he shared with me was if he gave money to a home­less per­son, he couldn’t guar­an­tee that per­son gets food,” Ramie Poh said.

The fam­ily knew they hit on the right idea when they learned the Food Bank pro­vides food sta­ples like ce­real and bread, but does not hand out milk or but­ter be­cause they pre­vi­ously did not stock dairy prod­ucts.

Osten had orig­i­nally thought of a punch card sys­tem fam­i­lies could use, but a bet­ter so­lu­tion is to gen­er­ate do­na­tions for The Dairy Depart­ment, and have the Food Bank pur­chase only the needed quan­ti­ties of dairy items on a weekly ba­sis and keep them in their walk-in cooler.

The Poh fam­ily ap­proached a num­ber of Swift Cur­rent busi­nesses this past week with their idea, and they will be mak­ing fur­ther vis­its dur­ing the com­ings weeks to help turn his vi­sion into re­al­ity. The ini­tial re­sponse has been quite pos­i­tive, with a num­ber of cor­po­rate and in­di­vid­ual do­na­tions shared in the first days of the pro­ject.

“I didn’t think that it would work out, but I’m happy it did,” a shy Osten said while be­ing in­ter­viewed last week.

Busi­nesses, in­di­vid­u­als and or­ga­ni­za­tions in­ter­ested in sup­port­ing Osten’s Dairy Depart­ment ini­tia­tive can pur­chase a gift card in their de­sired amount from the Whole­sale Club, Safe­way, Pi­o­neer Co-op or Wal­Mart. Do­na­tions can then be dropped off at the Sal­va­tion Army, where a char­i­ta­ble do­na­tion re­ceipt will be is­sued.

“He’s touched the com­mu­nity. It’s a Sal­va­tion Army part­ner­ship, but he’s the one that got the pro­gram go­ing,” Ramie Poh said.

She points out a main push came fol­low­ing a visit to Mex­ico, where the young­ster saw home­less peo­ple, peo­ple wash­ing in the creek, and in­di­vid­u­als who looked hun­gry. His thoughts turned to want­ing to help peo­ple at home who did not have enough food to eat.

“I kind of sat on that and I thought, OK, well maybe this is just an idea that came and he ver­bal­ized it and it wouldn’t be fol­lowed through. So I waited a while, but I had kind of kept notes of what he wanted. So then he came to be again and he said ‘re­mem­ber when I talked to you about that?’ I said yes. And he said ‘are we ever go­ing to do any­thing about that?’”

Their meet­ing with the Sal­va­tion Army turned into a per­fect part­ner­ship for this idea to blos­som.

“When we had that meet­ing with the Sal­va­tion Army, they asked Osten what his idea was, and he just started spilling out all th­ese ideas,” she said.

Shawn Poh said their ini­tial pre­sen­ta­tions to down­town busi­nesses were well re­ceived, with a pos­i­tive reaction from busi­ness peo­ple be­ing pitched an idea by an el­e­men­tary aged young­ster.

“The busi­nesses we went to yes­ter­day seemed to be fairly open to the idea,” he ad­mit­ted.

The fam­ily are hop­ing the Dairy Depart­ment pro­ject catches on.

“I hope it goes through and I hope it goes all year,” she said. “But if we can help a few peo­ple with the amount of money we’ve raised.”

Fam­i­lies and in­di­vid­u­als ben­e­fit­ing from items gen­er­ated through the The Dairy Depart­ment will know how they have re­ceived their dairy items thanks to an­other ini­tia­tive thought up by Osten. Each Dairy Depart­ment item will con­tain a busi­ness card which sim­ply states: “Dairy Depart­ment. I hope this helps your fam­ily. Osten Poh Age 9.”

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