School supply charities fill backpacks for children in need


Blot graphic by Lauren Tarigo

To get their child through the school year, some parents are forced to rely on donations from classmates and teachers.

Kaitlyn Delaney

Each year, as back-to-school season approaches, teachers release lists of supplies for the upcoming year, sending parents on a hunt for these essentials. By the end of their child’s academic career, parents will have spent thousands of dollars on school supplies, leaving those who cannot afford the requested supplies at a crossroads.

According to the 2018 Huntington Backpack Index, families spend an average of $636.96, $941.18, and $1,354.47 per child in elementary, middle, and high school, respectively, on supplies and other back-to-school fees each year, presenting a struggle for those who lack adequate financial means. 

This economic struggle to purchase educational resources places stress on families and teachers alike, as explained in the 2017 School Supply Impact Report.

“When teachers have students who cannot provide their own materials, it places an incredible burden and strain on the classroom,” the report explained. “How will they ensure these students can participate fully? How will they ensure equity?”

To get their child through the school year, some parents are forced to rely on donations from classmates and teachers. Many teachers use their supply lists to assist these families. By requesting more materials than needed, there may be extra supplies for the students whose families cannot afford them.

“What you are seeing is a classic example of those who have buying for those who do not have, which is the purpose of public education in the first place,” Sam Pirozzolo, vice president of the New York City parents union, said.

In addition to the help offered by teachers and classmates, some organizations shed light on the issue by seeking donations to aid in providing supplies to students. Operation Backpack, based in New York, provides backpacks filled with age-specific school supplies for children in homeless and domestic violence shelters. The organization relies solely on donations to purchase supplies for the children.

Last year, the organization “provided 20,000 children with a full backpack in time for the first day of school,” according to Operation Backpack’s website. “This way, they started the year looking and feeling more like their housed classmates and less like a child in need.”