A Toronto-born basketball star now playing for the Indiana Pacers is lending his name to a national campaign aimed at raising money to feed hungry school children.

Cory Joseph, a Pacers point guard who played for the Toronto Raptors until he was traded last season, launched the campaign organized by Isthmus, a Toronto-based charity, on Monday. 

The campaign is called the Isthmus 120 Challenge, which means Canadians are encouraged to donate $120 to Isthmus to help one child for a year. The charity provides food to nourish children from low income families on weekends.

Selected children, based on recommendations from teachers, receive enough food to fill a backpack on Friday afternoons and they return to school with an empty backpack on Monday mornings. 

Cory Joseph Isthmus

'I saw many children in my own neighbourhood growing up dealing with hunger issues so I feel I have the responsibility to give back,' Cory Joseph says. (Christopher Langenzarde/CBC)

"It only takes $120 to feed one child for the entire school year," Joseph, an ambassador for the charity, said in a news release.

"I saw many children in my own neighbourhood growing up dealing with hunger issues so I feel I have the responsibility to give back."

Born in Toronto and raised in Pickering, Ont., Joseph has said his mother worked hard to support him and his three siblings. In his younger years, Joseph said he saw how some disadvantaged children had to struggle to get enough to eat.

Isthmus CEO Adam Markwell said in the release that the charity is pleased that Joseph agreed to help out.

"We are thrilled to have Cory lend his star status to this event," he said. 

Cory Joseph

'Hunger doesn't take weekends off,' Cory Joseph says in video released as part of campaign. (Isthmus)

"Most Canadians don't realize that food insecurity impacts one-in-five children in Canada, so for every backpack we fill, we feed a child on the weekend for an entire year."

On its website, the charity says it provides 450,000 meals to roughly 2,500 kids across Canada every year. It says about 1.3 million children in Canada are food insecure.

Isthmus 120 Challenge aims to connect hungry children with food to eat on weekends when they would otherwise go hungry.

"Our goal is to break the cycle of poverty. That requires an education. It is impossible to learn when you are hungry," the website reads.

A geographical term, an isthmus is a narrow strip of land, with water on both sides, that connects two larger areas of land.

The charity has said the name was chosen because it describes the work that the charity does. It sees its role as "bridging the gap" between the Friday afternoon bell and Monday morning. 

Challenge 120

About 1.3 million children in Canada are food insecure. (Isthmus)

The program touts it improves children's test scores, reading skills, health and attendance and has a positive influence on students' behaviour. 

Canadians who donate $120 to the challenge will receive an entry to a contest, with winners to be announced on Nov. 17.

The grand prize is a trip for two to Toronto to see Joseph play against the Raptors at the Air Canada Centre on Dec. 1. Hotel accommodation and a meet-and-greet with Joseph at the game are also included. 

The second and third prizes are "fan packs." The 120 Challenge runs until Nov. 16.