Stacks of notebooks, folders, crayons, markers, and boxes of colored pencils were laid out across tables at CHS Field in downtown St. Paul. At the end of each station of school supplies: backpacks ready to be filled by the line of nearly 4,000 volunteers, more than half of the baseball park’s seating capacity.
This was Greater Twin Cities United Way Action Day, and Neighborhood House is thankful to be one of 24 partners and beneficiaries helping provide school supplies to Twin Cities students.
For many of us, the back-to-school shopping season is a familiar yearly routine, coming and going almost as swiftly as the summer itself. But why does that matter to Neighborhood House families, the bigger picture of poverty, and the costs of education?
According to the 2017 Huntington Bank Backpack Index, parents can expect to pay $662 per elementary school student, $1,001 per middle school student, and $1,489 per high school student over the school year just to meet the required supplies and other fees. In a study by Deloitte, a family in the Midwest could spend $443 per child on school supplies and clothing during the back-to-school shopping season alone.
As a result, the back-to-school shopping season can bring added financial and emotional stress to St. Paul’s most vulnerable families, including those we serve. In 2016, our Family Centers served 686 families in crisis–many of whom needed assistance with basic needs such as rent, utilities and food support.
When low-income families are forced to make tough financial decisions to meet their basic needs, it’s harder to prepare their children for school and invest in the essentials for class.
As we head into the school year, providing something as simple as a backpack with pencils and notebooks can bring comfort to our families. Thanks to the generosity of Action Day, we were able to fill a U-Haul with 1,500 backpacks for our annual School Supplies Drive. These backpacks will help St. Paul students in our community ranging from elementary school children to high school-aged teens.
As the summer comes to a close, we are thankful to have friends and volunteers give our community members supplies for the upcoming school year. In our efforts to meet the many needs of St. Paul families, we are thrilled to help send children to school with everything they need for class and we’re honored to have the support of the Greater Twin Cities United Way’s Action Day.