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The Mustard Seed sends 750 Victoria kids back to school with new supplies and clothes

The Fair Start Program has been helping families for 20 years and seen needs increase
Families were able to pick up new school supplies and clothes at the Mustard Seed Street Church. File contributed.

Families across Victoria grabbed new backpacks, school supplies and clothing this week thanks to the Mustard Seed’s Fair Start Program.

The Mustard Seed, in partnership with Monk Office, was able to put together 750 school supply kits for kids ranging from kindergarten to Grade 12.

The supplies would usually cost parents approximately $80, but The Mustard Seed was able to purchase them at-cost for $40 each.

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“Families are asked to spend up to $400 on supplies, clothes, gym strip and more,” said Janiene Boice, director of development at The Mustard Seed Street Church. “We believe in creating a system that kids could get school supplies and not be singled out on the first day of school.”

In addition, kids were also able to go “shopping” at the Mustard Seed’s Family Centre. The Centre’s counselling room was transformed into a store filled with new clothes, shoes and backpacks for kids to go through. A total of 580 kids were allowed to pick an outfit, backpack, running shoes and coat at no cost.

“It’s a way to not feel uncomfortable or have shame, because kids already feel a stigma if they’re getting used supplies,” Boice said. “We want to empower families to have a fair start to success.”

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The need for school supplies has steadily increased since the Fair Start Program first began in 1998. In 2014, only 430 kits were picked up before it jumped to 680 in 2015, and to 700 in 2016.

Boice said the jump to 750 in 2017 and 2018 has to do both with public awareness of the program, but also increasing living expenses in Victoria.

As of Tuesday, 740 of the 750 kits had been picked up, but Boice said if the demand continues for the upcoming school year, The Mustard Seed would find more supplies.

“We would solve it,” Boice said. “Families come first at The Mustard Seed.”

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