The back-to-school ritual is in full swing, as parents rush to shopping malls and office supply stores to start their kids off on the right foot.
But for hundreds of Greater Victoria families, the costs of pens and pencils, binders and paper – not to mention new clothing – come at the expense of food on the table.
“We did some rough calculations about how much it costs a parent to get their child ready for school simply with supplies, and it’s about $70 for elementary and about $100 for high school,” said Cheryl Dyck, volunteer co-ordinator at the Single Parent Family Resource Centre.
Dyck and her team partnered with Staples last week to stuff more than 250 backpacks with back-to-school goodies for families in need, and said she still had to refer parents to other non-profit organizations offering similar programs.
“People are living pretty close to the bone in this expensive region, so anytime there’s an extra expense like school or Christmas or birthdays, we can help with that,” Dyck said. “But the need is really high.”
Another 500 children were helped out by the Mustard Seed’s fair start program, which has been running for 16 years and has seen a steady increase in usage, said Jackie Cox-Ziegler, director of administration.
“We stayed open into the evening this year,” she said. “There were huge line-ups in the morning when the doors opened, but it was a really good way to support many of our working poor families.”
Cox-Zeigler said the Mustard Seed food bank is always in need of more donations.
The Salvation Army’s Stan Hagen Centre for Families has already provided nearly 200 children with school supplies this summer, and organizers are hoping for enough cash donations to help at least another 50 families in the coming weeks, said Sipili Molia, community relations co-ordinator.
“The public has responded big time already, but we could always use more,” Molia said.
Depending on the grade each child is entering, helpful donations also include backpacks, pencil cases, lunch bags, lined paper, pens, glue sticks, pencil crayons, notebooks and binders.
For more information or to donate, call Stan Hagen Centre for Families at 250-386-8521.