School supplies put a dent in Windsor-Essex parents’ wallets

Last week, a majority of Windsor-Essex students returned to class, some wearing new backpacks and back-to-school clothes after 18 months of switching between classroom learning and virtual teaching.

While many parents may have wanted to send their children back to school wearing the latest fashions and prepared with the latest school supplies, some parents in Windsor-Essex struggle to provide these essentials for their children.

Julie Boucher, a mother of six, said she’s invested more money in back-to-school shopping this year due to the price hike, but she planned ahead by buying wholesale and looking to sell supplies, clothes and shoes months in advance.

“Backpacks in the mall cost $ 70 to $ 80. I’m sorry, that is, to me, ridiculous for a backpack,” Boucher said.

Boucher and her husband Scott have lost their jobs due to COVID-19. Boucher’s business as a wedding and event planner has been hit hard by cancellations, reduced guest lists and blockages while her husband, who worked two full-time jobs, had to deal with problems. reduced hours.

She said their wallets had been tighter this year during back-to-school shopping.

“Just the cost of binders, paper, markers and mechanical pencils, I saw a huge increase in prices,” she said.

Boucher estimated that she spent at least $ 300 on school supplies – excluding shoes, clothes and lunch boxes – for three of her four school-aged children.

Julie (left) and her husband Scott Boucher (right) found this year’s back-to-school spending to be particularly high due to rising prices and declining work. (Submitted by Julie Boucher)

“Growing need”

Some of the rising costs have been linked to inflation.

Last July, Statistics Canada reported that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 3.7 percent, the largest increase since 2011.

The increase was seen across the country, ranging from furniture to durable goods, cars and food.

The struggle to afford the necessary school supplies is reflected in Centraide’s “Backpacks for Success” campaign.

This year, 2,000 backpacks and $ 15,000 in Staples gift cards were distributed to families over three days. The association was able to double its initial objective, but many families still left empty-handed.

“It wasn’t enough,” said Lorraine Goddard, CEO of United Way Windsor-Essex.

“I think it’s really indicative of what’s going on in our community, the need for that kind of support.”

The collection of the backpacks took place in six different schools between August 24 and 26. Goddard said most of the backpacks were handed out shortly after opening due to early queues and high demand.

“It wasn’t enough,” says Lorraine Goddard, CEO of United Way Windsor Essex County

While United Way Windsor Essex County exceeded its goal of distributing 1,000 backpacks, it was unable to supply all families, due to continued strong demand. 1:15

She estimated that the organization needed at least 50% more backpacks to meet the number of families that needed them.

As organizations like United Way have tried to increase support for families during the pandemic, Goddard said more dual-income families have expressed a need for support. She attributed it to increased expenses and layoffs due to the pandemic.

“We are seeing families who have traditionally not needed this support having access to it. So we are certainly seeing an increase,” she said.

Boucher echoed the sentiment.

She said she did not participate in the “Backpacks for Success Campaign” or any other charity campaign due to fear of depriving others in need of them.

“I feel bad,” she said. “It’s not just everyone who doesn’t have two incomes, everyone is in trouble.”

Mike Clark, public relations director for the Children’s Aid Society of Windsor Essex (WECAS) understands the pressure parents feel when shopping back to school.

“I hate it”, says Sarah Harrison

Windsor mom describes the experience of buying back-to-school supplies this year particularly stressful 0:36

“There are parents who really want to provide for their child, they really want to do their best and financially, they just don’t, in many cases, have the means to do these kinds of extra things,” did he declare. .

‘It’s a big thing’

Each year, WECAS organizes a collection of backpacks for people affiliated with the organization. This year, 904 backpacks were distributed to children and young people.

According to Clark, referrals are given to WECAS by teachers, external agencies and community members in order to receive a backpack. Due to COVID, they haven’t received so many referrals.

“There are probably others who have a need, but we’re not fully aware of it at this point,” Clark said.

Sarah Harrison, a single mother with two children, said she found back-to-school errands stressful.

“Kids don’t understand the concept of money yet, especially at my kid’s age where they just think money grows on trees, so it’s hard because you want to be able to get everything your child does. expect to have first day of school, but you can’t always accomplish that, ”Harrison said.

Sarah Harrison (middle) with her daughters Kloe Nantais (left) and Rylee Nantais (right). Harrison said she believes more and more people are struggling to provide school supplies for their children due to increased spending, but the topic is not openly discussed. (Submitted by Sarah Harrison)

Harrison works as an office administrator for a home assessment service. When the public health restrictions were put in place, his hours were reduced as was his income.

Similar to Boucher, Harrison said she spent more money this year on back-to-school supplies, but that if she had known about the “Backpacks for the Success Campaign,” she would have.

“I think if more people knew that then I think they would use this resource for sure,” she said.

According to Mike Clark, “it’s a great thing” for a student to come to school prepared with a new backpack.

“Some people take a simple backpack and school supplies for granted. It’s not easy for many. It’s a great thing.”

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