It may be the dog days of summer, but back-to-school is heavy on the mind of those at Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank in Halifax.
The non-profit has launched their backpack program aimed at providing a necessary school carry-all complete with school supplies to as many low- and fixed-income students as possible.
“The first day of school, having a new backpack, new supplies, new crayons, it gives them a boost,” said Dr. Denise Daley, executive director of Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank. “A motivational boost to say, ‘hey, I’m ready to learn.'”
Last year, Parker Street provided backpacks and school supplies to about 940 students — a record high. With inflation and the cost-of-living increasing, they’re expecting that number to be more than 1,000 this year.
“We see everyone coming back, always for their next appointment, always booking right away,” said Sonah Leahey, Parker Street’s director of client services. “It means they know they won’t be able to catch up and they will need our services again and again.”
Amid the rising cost, governments have stepped in to assist. Back in June, the Prince Edward Island government committed $790,000 to provide free school supplies to all students from kindergarten to Grade 9 during the 2022-23 school year.
The funding is expected to assist about 15,900 children in public schools across the province.
There’s no such commitment coming from the Nova Scotia government, but the province’s education minister says they’re still doing their part to lighten the financial burden.
“The regions actually have about $4 million, so last year they spent about $4 million to provide school supplies, and so they’re ready and able again this year,” said Nova Scotia Education Minister Becky Druhan.
“I want to assure all Nova Scotians, families and students, that any student who needs support in school supplies or any other way, they’ll get that support.”
The folks at Parker Street say whether they’re granted more funding or not, they’ll continue doing whatever they can to help.
“Having a proper backpack and all of the proper supplies definitely goes a long way in helping the kids succeed,” said Leahey.
Parker Street says they’ll be accepting donations until around mid-August. The fully stocked backpacks will then be handed out to students at the Halifax Forum before the school year begins.