Groups try to ease back to school burden for cash-strapped families

Some Sudbury teachers and groups are donating or discounting back to school supplies to students from lower income families who find this time of year particularly difficult.
This time of year can be particularly hard for many families who struggle to find the money for all back to school needs.

Back-to-school is the second most expensive time of year for families, aside from Christmas, and some families must decide between buying new school supplies... or paying the rent.

This very expensive time of year can be trying.

Now some Sudbury teachers and groups are working to do what they can to ease the burden of this pricey time of year for lower income families.

Many families struggle with the spike in needs on top of their day to day lives which is why some Sudbury groups are trying to ease the strain on families by donating or discounting school supplies. 

Karen Passi is used to back to school shopping. She has an 11-year-old son and is also a teacher at Lasalle Secondary School.

Passi says that every year she sees students in her class who cannot afford to buy new supplies.

“That’s why I go out and spend my own money so I can make sure the kids in my class have their own stuff so they can learn and they’re not disadvantaged at all," she said. 

The financial stress of the new school year can cause everything from anxiety to physical illness in families, according to Monique Beaudoin from Sante Sudbury, a francophone health clinic.

Her group provides families in need with new school supplies at 10 per cent of the regular cost.

She says it's not just low-income people who feel the burden this time of year.

“You might have a middle income family that on the surface might not look like they're struggling. But if they have six kids at home and are supporting their parents, then they're financially strapped too,” Beaudoin said.

This year Beaudoin's group gave school supplies to more than 250 students.

The Rainbow District School Board says it doesn't require parents to provide any specific school supplies but knows that some schools do put out a list of suggested items parents should buy.

Bruce Bourget, the board's superintendent, says these days many schools are much more sensitive to the needs of students from lower income families. 

"There are stories of students who have benefited from very caring teacher who have taken them back to school shopping," Bourget said. "Or teachers or administrators who have created a storage of all kinds of items that are over and above."

However, he added that the school board does not have any specific fund to provide students with school supplies.