Parents are starting to check items off the back-to-school supply list as the start of the school year nears, but this year, clearing that list might mean emptying your wallet.
The recent inflation means it’s the most expensive year for back-to-school shopping costs to date across the nation.
In Central Oregon, some community members like Cole Graves are hoping to lighten the burden for families. The Redmond man is on his third year of running a backpack and school supply drive, made possible through community donations.
“Last year we gave out about 85, this year we’re predicting to do over 100 backpacks, so it’s been a good transformation and a good growth over the past few years,” Graves said.
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With the hike in prices, the need is greater than ever.
“There’s been a significant price change, obviously. It seems like everything in America went up $5,” he said. “So you take into account that same notebook that they called 25 cents, now costs 75 cents, or that same backpack that cost $15 now costs $30.”
Graves uses the monetary donations from the community through his Facebook page and uses them to purchase supplies from “everywhere”, including Amazon, Target, and Walmart.
This year, the distribution will take place at an event in Sam Johnson Park on Aug. 27 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., where all families from all school districts are welcome.
“I mean, imagine a family of three having to buy kids school supplies,” he said. “That same budget that you had two years ago would not suffice now, whether that be for backpacks or school supplies.”
Research from the National Retail Federation shows that families are needing to spend 40.6% more on back to school spending and 35.5% more on back to college spending than they did in 2019.
Family Access Network also seeks to alleviate the problem locally, on a much broader scale.
Each school in Bend-La Pine Schools, the Sisters School District, Redmond School District, Crook County School District and Jefferson County 509J School district has a FAN advocate in place to help with crucial student needs, including school supplies.
Bend-La Pine Schools supplies most basic necessities for students, but connects a student with FAN for personal items like backpacks and water bottles.
“Last school year we did help over 1,500 students have access to school supplies,” said Jen Enna, FAN’s Donor Relations, Events and Marketing Coordinator. “I think it’s more important this year with increase in price of school supplies, letting families know that our advocates are there and help and have these items for these students for the first day of school.”
FAN collects school supply donations through their community partner businesses, who run supply drives and deliver the items to FAN headquarters before the start of the school year. They also have an Amazon wish list that folks can contribute to.
Enna said their offices were already filling up from the donations they have already received.
“We’re still four weeks out from the start of the school year, but anyone who is struggling, know that they can connect with their advocate at the start of the year and we could help give the supplies that they need,” she said.
More information about individual advocates and donations can be found on the FAN website.
Graves said the backpack drive has become very personal to him.
“It’s very important to me because I don’t want a child to not have the bare necessities when they go to school this year, whether it be a pencil, backpack, or even a piece of paper,” he said. “That’s why I took this challenge on, is to help as many as I possibly can.”