Halifax non-profit’s school supply drive low on donations this year due to COVID-19

Parker Street Food & Furniture Bank volunteers organize school supply donations during the 2019 Back to School Supply Drive. Parker Street Food & Furniture Bank Facebook Page

Back-to-school season is tough for families at the best of times as family members get accustomed to new schedules and routines.

For low or no income families, the stress of the back-to-school season can bring challenges that most of the general public will never have to face.

That’s why Parker Street Food & Furniture Bank is hosting its annual Back to School program, collecting financial and new school supply donations for kids in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

“Since COVID-19 hit, we’re getting a lot of new people coming in that have never used the food bank programs before,” says Cynthia Louis, director of donor relations at Parker Street.

“It’s been a rollercoaster for our organization and our clients.”

READ MORE: Parker Street food bank puts out call for school supplies for students in need

A recent survey from RetailMeNot found that the average parent plans to spend $532 for back-to-school shopping. For struggling families, especially those affected by COVID-19 related job loss or wage cuts, spending this amount is not an option.

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In 2019, Parker Street distributed over 1,000 backpacks filled with school supplies to low-income families with school-aged children. The number of backpacks to fill is the same this year, but Parker Street so far only has enough school supplies to fill 500.

“We just want the kids to have a level playing field,” Louis says. “We want to make sure they start off the new school year with dignity and on the right foot with all the supplies they need.”

READ MORE: ‘This year will be different’ — N.S. to implement mandatory masks for Grade 4 to Grade 12 students

Louis says she has seen a decrease in the number of school supplies coming in compared to past school supply drives and urges people shopping for supplies for their own kids to pick up a few extra items for donation.

“If we don’t reach our goal, we’ll have to put a cap on the program and turn people away,” Louis says.

The staff at Parker Street are also looking for donations of small bottles of hand sanitizer and masks to add to the backpacks. They plan to quarantine donated items for two days before volunteers put the backpacks together.

Financial donations can be made online through Parker Street’s website and school supplies, hand sanitizer and masks can be dropped off at its location at 2415 Maynard St., Halifax, during regular business hours.

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Parker Street is accepting school supply donations until Aug. 21. After that date, volunteers will work to put together the backpacks — just in time for back to school for kids in HRM.

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