Lizzie Edwards has come to dread the end of summer for reasons beyond an eventual end to warmer weather and trips to local beaches with her twin sons. The Ward 7 resident, and her husband Bobby, found this year that budgeting for the return to school exceeded the costs for a week-long, family vacation. And like thousands of parents in and around the nation’s capital, the Edwards’ expect to take advantage of local giveaways to offset the limited household budget.
A recent survey by global firm Deloitte found that the average parent spends nearly $500 per child in school supplies and necessities for back-to-school expenses. However, the $27 billion in sales, the survey notes, generated by back-to-school shopping, will come in large part through corporate, non-profit, church, and community “angels,” who purchase the supplies and then donate the supplies to needy families.
“We’re not poor in the traditional sense where we are unable to feed our children, but with the rising costs of day-to-day living, and the unexpected growth spurts that the kids are going through, we need help,” Edwards told the AFRO. “Clothing, backpacks, and notebooks aside – there are additional costs to back-to-school that the school used to provide. I never considered having to purchase hand wipes.”
Thomasina Yearwood, president and CEO of The Thurgood Marshall Center Trust (TMCT), a community services project that specializes in providing support services and one of several non-profits in D.C. hosting back-to-school giveaways, told the AFRO that increasingly, the need for support is coming from those like the Edwards who are on the margins of need.
“Our youth are our future and we must undergird them, by that I mean to provide them with the tools for a successful school year. This means reaching out to grandparents and an aging population who serve as caregivers for school-aged kids, as well as working parents who simply do not have the financial resources,” Yearwood told the AFRO. “We purchased lots of things that schools used to provide and we’re stuffing each book bag with the care and understanding that our future is at stake.”
In the District, where 92 percent of public school students are classified as coming from disadvantaged homes, or are part of a homeless population, donation centers and rallies, similar to TMCT’s on Aug.19, may be the only option for some students.
“It’s like food pantries in the city – as more of your money is spent on housing, less can be allocated to food. To tell a parent who is struggling that they need to provide things like glue sticks and hand wipes, forces them to choose between having their kids prepared for school, or feeding them,” Edwards, who works as a paralegal said.
To offset her costs, Edwards said a friend told her about several churches and non-profits that are giving away backpacks filled with the items her sons need for the first few weeks of school. It is the first time she will participate, but says several of her coworkers – like herself – who had turned down the help in previous years, are accepting the help this year.
A survey conducted by the Education Market Association found that 81 percent of respondents plan to shop at mass merchants, such as Cosco or Sam’s Club for school supplies – a 24 percentage point jump over last year. Another 28 percent plan to shop at off-price stores – such as the Dollar Store or Dollar General – up from 10 percent in 2016. Only 28 percent said they will shop traditional department stores, a number showing a decline from 54 percent last year.