Quebec families, non-profits, struggling to meet basic student needs

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Quebec families, schools struggling to meet students’ basic needs
WATCH: Parents and organizations helping children are struggling more than ever this back-to-school season. Inflation is making it hard for everyone to keep up with basic needs, from school supplies to food. Global's Gloria Henriquez reports – Aug 23, 2023

Back to school already comes with it’s fair share of emotions for parents and children, but this year has proven to be even more difficult with inflation continuing to push up prices on everything from supplies to food.

More and more families are turning to non-profits for help, but those organizations are struggling to keep up with the demand.

Non-profit Sun Youth’s  back-to-school backpacks are a little lighter this year.

Lack of funding, growing demand and inflation are affecting their annual school supplies distribution program.

“We had to remove calculators. We had to remove geometry sets,” said Ernie Rosa, Sun Youth’s director of emergency services.

Inflation is also affecting food aid programs like the Generations Foundation.

“I’m pretty sure it’s going to stay empty all year,” said the foundation’s executive director, Adrian Bercovici, as he opened the organization’s fruit and vegetable fridge.

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Bercovici is in total disbelief.

Normally, his warehouse would be filled up with food.

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This year, shelves are almost empty because he says donations are down and prices are up.

“Everything has absolutely not just gone up in price, but skyrocketed,” Bercovici said.

Bercovici is not sure how they will be able to fulfill the growing demand.

His organization is not alone.

The Coalition for Healthy School Food fears school children won’t be eating well this year.

Quebec does give schools money to help with snacks and meals through their 15012 program.

This school year the government is providing $40,3 million. It’s up to every school to distribute the money how they see fit.

But the coalition says that doesn’t work.

“It varies differently, really greatly among different schools: $4 per student for a year and some will have as much as $160 per kid for a year,” said Danie Martin, a spokesperson for the Coalition for Healthy School Food.

Martin says they’d like to see a universal food program in schools, where all children have equal access to good meals.

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Economist Moshe Lander says it’s not a good idea because it will end up costing the government much more money to implement the program, which means government spending will go up and so will inflation.

“Even if the government wanted to do something, their hands are very much tied at this point,” Lander said.

It leaves non-profits like the Generations Foundation left to their own devices.

“I don’t know how we’re going to do it this year,” Bercovici said.

He says he is hoping for people to step up with donations — or for a miracle.

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