School supply lists get longer and more expensive each year. It can be difficult for many families to purchase everything on their children's lists, especially as they get older and the lists begin to include items like a $100 graphing calculators. This is particularly difficult on lower-income families, many who are already struggling to makes ends meet. Tack on the cost of clothing and school fees and it can become a nearly impossible feat. If you find yourself in a good financial position, and you are so inclined, there are several ways you can help low-income families at back to school time.
Schools do as much as their budgets will allow to make sure that every child has an equal opportunity to succeed once inside their walls. Most districts provide free and reduced lunches for qualifying families to make sure their children get a warm meal every day. Some schools even provide free breakfast each morning. School buses are available for children who are too far to walk and otherwise wouldn't have a ride to class. But, budgets have their limits.
Parents are expected to pitch in for some of the bare necessities such as pencils, crayons, notebooks, and folders. The children are expected to have a way to carry their books and supplies to and from school each day. What happens when a family simply can't afford the essentials and the schools no longer have the budget to help out? Here are some ways you can help.
1. Donate Additional School Supplies To Your Child's Classroom
Not all families can afford the extensive list of supplies needed for a school year. Teachers are given a modest supply budget, but many have to dig deep into their own pockets to help out students whose parents are struggling financially. If you can afford to, consider dropping off extra supplies for the teacher to have on hand.
2. Support Your Local Salvation Army
The Salvation Army has a back to school program in many states where they provide backpacks and school supplies for children in need. But, they rely on financial donations to make this possible.
3. Organize A School Supply Drive
Organize a school supply drive in your community, through your business, or even among your friends. Donate the items you receive to a school in need in your area. Make it a yearly event, and watch your donations grow.
4. Volunteer With The Office Depot Foundation National Backpack Program
There's no problem in Houston, where we're donating 4,000 sackpacks today for local children. #ODFcares— Office Depot Fndn (@OfficeDepotFndn) August 3, 2016
The Office Depot Foundation's National Backpack Program donates approximately 200,000 sackpacks (drawstring-type backpacks) to children in need each year and have helped more than 4 million children since 2001.
5. Organize A Clothing Drive For Children And Teens
School supplies aren't the only things low-income families struggle to provide for their children during back to school time. Kids grow quickly, and often parents can't afford to provide their children with new shoes or longer pants. Donate these items to a foundation that directly donates to families in need (rather than selling the items at a thrift store) or talk to a local school, church, or community center about setting up time for needy families to come in and pick up some of these items for their children.
6. Support The Kids In Need Foundation
The Kids In Need Foundation partners with 38 locations across the country to help distribute school supplies to children in need. In 2015 they supported 4.8 million kids and more than 150,000 teachers across the U.S. You can support The Kids In Need Foundation by purchasing items from their Amazon wishlist to "fill the packs" provided by Everest Backpacks in their goal of donating 10,000 filled backpacks to low-income children.
7. Consider Purchasing Extra 'Extras'
Is your child's school having a carnival or dance? Consider buying extra admission tickets that the school can offer to children whose parents may not be able to afford the cost. Buy an extra yearbook, extra copies of the novel the kids are reading in English, an extra recorder from the music teacher, extra pack of underwear , socks or an extra outfit that teachers can keep on hand for kids who have a bathroom emergency. Send in extra snacks to the classroom. Buy an extra school uniform or PE uniform the teacher can donate to a student in need. Donate the cost for a child to attend a field trip. Seriously, any extra can help.
8. Donate Your Talent
Are you a hairdresser? Round up a few of your colleagues and offer free back to school haircuts for kids in need. If you are a doctor or a dentist, consider donating your time to local free clinics.
9. Don't Take Advantage Of Donations If You Aren't In Need
Unfortunately, there are people who unnecessarily take advantage of free programs intended for the less fortunate. This is not only unethical, it makes those items unavailable to the people who actually need it.