15 million children don’t have money for school supplies. Here’s how you can help them
By Amy Chillag, CNN, August 19, 2019
(CNN)Going back to school can be scary for kids. There’s peer pressure, homework and tests. But 15 million children living in extreme poverty in the US face far more basic fears — not having the supplies to learn or not knowing where they’ll get their next meal, especially on weekends. Here’s what’s being done and how you can help.
The burden of “back to school” lists
When a teacher hands out a list for parents of basic school supplies, it’s a real problem for at least one in five children in the US who live below the federally defined poverty line.
This elementary school in Indianapolis uses classroom supplies from the Kids in Need Foundation.
“We know most, if not all of (those children), go to school without some or all of the supplies,” says Dave Smith, executive director of the Kids in Need Foundation. “Parents shouldn’t have to decide between school supplies and putting food on the table.”
In many districts, Smith says, teachers don’t even publish a list because they know parents can’t afford the items.
Deana Venturi, who teaches English at a magnet school in St. Paul, Minnesota, has never handed a supply list to the kids because 90% of them are in poverty. She spends her own money on supplies — $1,000 to $1,500 a year, she says.
“I hide what I spend from my sister (who is an accountant) because I don’t want her to know,” says Venturi. “It’s one thing students don’t have to worry about so much and they can focus on learning.”
Her school does not provide a budget specifically for school supplies. She gets a $200 stipend for the school year.
Without supplies, students can’t participate in the lesson, says this 20-year teaching veteran. “Academically, they won’t do well.”
Venturi also points out the stigma around not being prepared.
“Having a backpack if everyone has a backpack, having a notebook and pencils and really wanting to do the right thing,” says Venturi. “They want to do well.”
How you can help with school supplies
Kids in Need Foundation has been trying to remedy this problem for 24 years. The nonprofit provides free supplies to teachers through “resource centers” that look like small office-supply stores. Teachers receive a number of points and can shop the aisles. Resource centers are in 43 big cities, including New York, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, and Portland, Oregon.
The supplies take the burden off low-income families and the teachers who serve them.