New Brunswick

Saint John food bank serves up school supplies

A Saint John food bank has started serving up school supplies, along with bread and soup, but volunteers say their stocks won't last long and they could use more donations.

Community Food Basket seeks more donations

A Saint John food bank has started serving up school supplies, along with bread and soup.

But volunteers at the Community Food Basket say their stocks won't last long because so many families need help getting their children equipped for back to school.

"Next week will be wild with them coming in asking for supplies," said volunteer Carolyn Dannels.

"And so the more we can have, the more we can get, the better for the parents and the kids."

A recent survey conducted in Atlantic Canada for Visa found families with children under the age of 18 are expected to spend nearly $700.

It's a significant hit for even the average-income family.

"This is a huge, huge time of year for parents when it comes to spending," said Kathy Kaufield, of Quispamsis, who has two daughters, aged six and nine.

Kaufield has already spent more than $300 and still has several items left to pick up.

"When you think of it, not only do you have this list of things that are required, there's shoes, and back-to-school activities, school fees," she said.

"It's second only to Christmas in terms of spending, I would say."

For low-income families, it’s a difficult challenge.

Kaufield says she doesn't mind if some of the items she buys get pooled for classroom use, or redistributed to families who need help.

But the district does get complaints from those who say the lists of required items are too long.

Redirected waste

Some people question the need for dozens of extra pencils, erasers, baggies and Kleenex, particularly given some of the waste at the end of the year, said Barry Ogden, a teacher at Saint John High School.

Last year, custodians who were cleaning out lockers at the school, saved some of those items instead of putting them in the garbage bin.

"What bothered them was the amount of school supplies they were throwing out," said Ogden.

He then redirected those items to the Community Food Basket, which is offering supplies, such as  scribblers, pencils, erasers and glue sticks for the first time this year.

Parents just need to show their child's Medicare card and a school list of items needed, officials said.

Zoe Watson, the superintendent of Anglophone South, said it may be time to re-examine some of the policies and procedures about the supply shopping lists sent to parents.

"Every year, we do hear the same questions that you're asking about the costs of school supplies, so it's something we have to be mindful of," she said.

Watson did note that the province has increased the amount of money it gives to teachers to buy supplies to $250 this year, up from $125 last year.