Edmonton families struggling to afford school supplies on the rise

In some areas of the Alberta Capital Region, as many as eight in 10 students need help with school supplies, according to the United Way.

Some 14,000 students will be given school supplies, according to the United Way

The Tools for School program gives kids in need school supplies. United Way officials say demand for school essentials has gone up in the Edmonton area. (Shutterstock)

An increasing number of Edmonton families are struggling for afford school supplies for their children.

According to the United Way, as many as eight in 10 students in some areas of the capital region can't afford the school supplies they need.

Programs like the United Way's Tools for School program helps families in need by filling backpacks with essential school supplies and donating them to students from Kindergarten to Grade 12.

Volunteers pack the bags, which are then handed out to thousands of kids in 30 communities throughout the Capital Region.

Demand for the program continues to grow, said Sara Klapstein, a marketing advisor for United Way.

"The need has definitely increased," Klapstein said.  "If we weren't here to supply school supplies to the students who need them, they would go to school without the basic necessities. I'm talking about things as simple as a backpack, coil notebook and pencil." 
Sara Klapstein, marketing advisor for United Way, says the Tools for School program is facing increased demand from local families. (CBC)

Last year, 13,500 students in the Edmonton region relied on the program for their school supplies. More than 14,000 students are in need so far this year, Klapstein said. 

As of Saturday afternoon, $97,000 had been raised in the Edmonton area for the school program. Organizers are hoping to raise an additional $45,000. This year's campaign deadline may be extended further into the school year to accommodate demand. 

Giving children the supplies they need gives them a better chance at success throughout the school year, Klapstein said in an interview from the United Way donation centre.

"When they don't have it, they don't fit in," she said. "Their confidence decreases and their willingness to strive and push through in school goes down."

It can be really stressful, looking at that big, long list- Sunata Halliday , teacher and mother of three

Mother of three and a teacher, Sunata Halliday was among throngs of parents shopping for last-minute school supplies at a west Edmonton store on Saturday. 

While years of practice have made it easier, shopping for school supplies can be daunting, Halliday said.

She said this time of year can be hard on parents.

"It can be really stressful, looking at that big, long list," she said as she perused the busy aisles with her daughter Amy.  

New school supplies are still needed and can be dropped off at any Staples location in Edmonton region. Monetary donations can also be made online.

 As thousands of local children prepare for a return to the classroom, Klapstein encouraged people to donate. The program would be impossible without the generosity of Edmontonians.

The kits really do make a difference, Klapstein said. 

"We actually just had a little girl come in and she was able to pick her own backpack, which was huge," Klapstein said. "And the look on her face when she went walking — I mean skipping out — was amazing."