Parent to Parent: The Costs of Back to School

boy at school eating a sandwich from a lunch box

Parent to Parent: The Costs of Back to School
Guest blog submission by an anonymous volunteer

I don’t know about you, but it’s back to school and my wallet’s exhausted. Actually, it’s my debit card that has done most of the work, being swiped all over town at store after store to equip my three kids with everything they need to start the year off right.

Binders for three at $20 a pop, new sneakers, reams of refill paper at $6 each, pencil cases, lunch bags, rulers, sharpies, crayons, pencils, sharpeners, protractors, erasers: the list goes on and on (and on).

September is a pricey month, especially when other things add on to the expenses (like having two kids with September birthdays). We watch with dismay as our bank accounts take hit after hit. Unfortunately, I have never been the kind of mom to start my back-to-school shopping in July, hunting and searching for the best deals on duo-tangs or pens. My hats are off to those folks; with a full-time job, I just never seem to have the time so it’s always a late-August scramble.

As stressful as back to school shopping can be, as a Feed Nova Scotia volunteer, I can’t help but think of how it must feel for parents who don’t have money already in the bank account for these types of significant expenses. For parents who have to take a small, finite amount of money each month and stretch to pay the bills, the rent and still have enough left over to feed their kids. Often, there is not enough to cover everything, even on a month without these added expenses.

My receipt for back-to-school shopping shows that I spent $318 just on school supplies for my kids this year. This seems like a fortune to me. To those living in poverty, this is simply out of the question. They don’t just feel dismay looking at dwindling bank account balance: there is no bank account balance. There are only devastating choices. Desperately-needed new shoes for gym class, or the power bill. New backpacks to replace the ones with holes in them, or groceries.

How can you help?

Consider dropping off a bag of food, or a donation to Feed Nova Scotia during September. Feed Nova Scotia has purchased and filled 1,200 backpacks for children in need this year, and was pleased to receive about 300 more donated from the public. Now, we are looking to make sure that kids have the nutritious food they need to succeed in school, at a time when family finances are strained by these extra costs.

We want to make sure kids have nutritious breakfasts to set them up for a great morning of learning, and hearty lunches to fuel their day. We’re told by some of our member agencies that often when kids visit their after school snack programs, it is the first thing they’ve had to eat all day. As a volunteer and a mom, this breaks my heart.

We know back-to-school can be a financial strain for everyone. If you have a bit to spare, we’re asking you fill up a bag or two of food, or drop off a donation to us. Every little bit helps and our neighbours who are facing extra hardship this month will especially appreciate it.