Parents look to food banks to fill lunch boxes

As students sharpen their pencils for another school year, more families are relying on food banks to fill not only their children’s lunch boxes, but their backpacks as well.

EDMONTON — As students sharpen their pencils for another school year, more families are relying on food banks to fill not only their children’s lunch boxes, but their backpacks as well.

Low-income families struggling to pay for rent and food are finding it difficult to manage the extra expense of the new school supplies that every returning student craves, says Katharine Schmidt, executive director at Food Banks Canada.

“Even $10 or $15 (in savings) can make a significant difference to those who are struggling with limited incomes.”

About half of the 700,000 families who use food banks have school-age children, Schmidt says.

In the York region north of Toronto, food banks are quickly running out of school supplies. They had planned to hand over 530 school bags this year, but with two weeks left to go before classes begin, they have already given out 519.

“The use of food banks has gone up and now the demand for backpacks is growing,” says York Region Food Network executive director Joan Stonehocker.

The region has almost one million residents, and 13 per cent of them fall below the poverty line, but food banks didn’t expect the high demand for school supplies this year.

“I don’t know what we are going to do in the next weeks,” says Stonehocker.

In Montreal, NDG Food Bank executive director Fiona Keats has been seeing more newcomers from Latin America looking for help.

“We are seeing more families having to choose between buying food and getting school supplies,” she says.

School supplies can cost up to $100 per student, she says. That’s on top of other fees that schools charge at the start of the year.

Parents on welfare can ask provincial governments for extra money when their children go back to school. In Alberta, for example, low-income parents can claim between $50 and $175 per child, depending on their grade, says Janice Schroeder, with Alberta Employment.

The Salvation Army is carrying out a campaign across the country to collect hundreds of backpacks full of supplies before the end of this month.

The charity is asking for donations of non-toxic markers, notebooks, geometry sets, dictionaries, pencils, erasers, pencil cases, highlighters and glue sticks.

“A lot of families with school children are new clients,” says Pam Goodyear, spokeswoman with the Salvation Army in Calgary. “The increase of clients, depending on the province, goes between five to 30 per cent.”

Parents can save money by purchasing school supplies throughout the year as needed, rather than buying everything up front and ending up with a lot of supplies their children don’t need, says Helen Ward, president of the parents association Kids First.

Just Posted

Red Deer student excels: 11 year old hosts fundraiser to help kids

A Red Deer student is like most students, with a few exceptions:… Continue reading

Survey suggests many Red Deer-area employers ready to hire in early 2019

Red Deer-area employers expect a hopeful hiring climate in the first quarter… Continue reading

Experts offer tips about how to prevent online ad spoilers during the holidays

Looking to prevent your Christmas surprises from being spoiled by online ads… Continue reading

Fast-expanding seafood giant joins Irvings, McCains as N.B. business royalty

FREDERICTON — For the Irvings, it was Bouctouche. For the McCains, Florenceville.… Continue reading

Dumba scores twice, Wild rout Canadiens 7-1

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Reeling and banged up, the Minnesota Wild were… Continue reading

Coach Hunter wants up-tempo Team Canada as world junior squad hits ice

COLWOOD, B.C. — Team Canada coach Tim Hunter says the team that… Continue reading

Study finds female-led films outperform male ones

NEW YORK — A study organized by Time’s Up, the organization formed… Continue reading

Price Is Right contestant wins winter trip to Winnipeg, Churchill

WINNIPEG — Who wants to visit Winnipeg in the dead of winter?… Continue reading

CBC Gem streaming service to launch exclusive content, partners with Wattpad

TORONTO — The CBC has launched a new streaming service featuring live… Continue reading

‘Part of the solution:’ Alberta seeks proposals to build new refinery

EDMONTON — Alberta is looking for someone to build a new oil… Continue reading

Online ads spoil Christmas surprises, raising privacy concerns: experts

Lisa Clyburn knew she had found the perfect gift for her nine-year-old… Continue reading

Sebastian Giovinco, Jonathan Osorio and Adriana Leon up for top CONCACAF awards

Toronto FC’s Sebastian Giovinco and Jonathan Osorio are up for CONCACAF male… Continue reading

Most Read