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Friday Fast: Give a kid a backpack

Back in 2008, we featured a Friday post to raise funds for our favorite candidates or their causes.  But with this Mother of All Recessions, the funds might be better spent on something a little more tangible and close to home. So, I am reviving the Friday Fast.

Here’s how it goes:  Give up a meal today and send the money you might have spent on it to the Friday Fast recipients.  It might not seem like a lot of money but when you pool your six bucks with a bunch of other people, the money adds up quickly.  And you can make some people happy and make a real difference in their lives.

Today’s Friday Fast recipients are kids.  It’s back to school season and children everywhere are getting lists of school supplies from their teachers.  When I was a child (cue the creaky old voice), school supplies were provided by the school for the most part.  Our teachers passed out paste and paper and funky yellow pens and #2 pencils.  The list of supplies we had to buy was relatively short.  Now, parents can easily spend well over $100 for items on the list.  And teachers can be weirdly specific. A couple of years ago, one of the items requested was a notebook “without the metal spiral (for safety reasons)”.  Hokay, maybe we can send that one over to Freerangekids for analysis.

In this economy, spending that kind of money on school supplies can be next to impossible for many families.  In my family, we are recycling more and more of last year’s supplies but we’ll still have to replenish and it’s not cheap.  Imagine what it’s like for kids whose parents have just lost their jobs or their houses.  It’s hard enough to think when your family is under stress.  What must it be like if you have to go to school without a new backpack or pencils or notebooks?  Coming to school unprepared makes the school day a lot harder for kids and teachers.  And peer group interactions are so important to a kid in elementary school.  It’s one thing to be poor, quite another to feel the bite of poverty when you can’t afford a glue stick or pencils.

You can’t eliminate all sadness and evil from the world.  It’s not possible for one person alone to save it.  But you can do *something*, one opportunity at a time, to strengthen the bonds between people, to lessen the tendency of the world towards disorder and to increase stability.  It takes only a little bit of work, a little bit of mindfulness, a little bit of money.

Give up your lunch today and give a kid a backpack.

Here are some suggestions for your donations.  If you are aware of others, list them in the comments.

K.I.D.S for Kids in Distressed Situations

Give a kid a backpack

ILoveSchools (teachers also spend money on supplies.  Give them a hand.)


United Way Stuff the Bus

Staples Give Back-Pack


30 Responses

  1. Great idea. When I taught in PA, we gave out school supplies as well. With budget cuts I’m sure the supplies are leaner. For the past two years I’ve given supplies to the boys of a neighbor of modest means. It’s an easy thing to accept – not like charity. Everyone can celebrate the beginning of the school year.

    • I did the Stuff the Bus thing at work this year. Went to Staples and bought a whole bunch of notebooks for $.39. You can’t beat the price. And then I supplemented with packs of crayons and pencils. What second grader doesn’t love a new box of crayons?

    • You taught in my state, how cool!
      This year my kid’s 4th graders teachers are asking kids to give $10 so they can buy the majority of the absolutely necessary supplies. It makes sense since they can get a teacher discount. And stuff that used to be on the list are now just on a wish list.

      • We live in the same state, how cool!

        • Hey I live there too, it’s myt adopted state but after all these years it is hard to remember once being a New Yorker and also a floridian.

          BTW.. I know lots of teachers and I do not know one who doesn’t spend close to 1k during the year for things their students need.

  2. Sounds good! But we will use last year’s backpack for our kid and mostly ignore the teacher’s list in order to make the lunch, so….
    Here are Friday’s tabloids

    • I would ignore the list and only buy things that I consider necessary and appropriate.

      Actually, from my understanding, Public Law 94142 states that every child is entitled to a free education. This means that they cannot be required to spend money on it – ie, anything that is necessary, must be free. The school can only require you to buy things if they are optional. I really don’t know how the schools get away with it. (I invoked this law with the school once when they were going to give my child an ‘F’ for not purchasing the same gym outfit as everyone else. They had to back off.) Going back to school should NOT be expensive!

      When I taught school in a poor area, I bought supplies for my students myself because the school supplied practically nothing. I don’t know where the money pouring into the schools was going, but it was not going to the kids or me. Somehow, though, we had highly paid Administrators!!

      I never had any money and my kid was not an outcast. He also was not ashamed to eat a free lunch. (He, now grown, told me recently that, if they forgot to punch his ticket, he would go thru again for seconds.)

  3. Or check your local school. I know my son’s elementary will again reinstate their food program this year.

    We set up a food bank last year because so many kids were going hungry and the school lunch was probably their only meal of the day. Each Friday, the child was sent home with an inconspicuous backpack full of food so that they had food for the weekend. Yeah, this jobless recovery is working so well.

    • This makes me cry in both a good way & bad way at the same time.

    • this morning some schmo was on morning Joe talking about what is wrong with education…again put the blame on teachers. But when a kid has to be sent home with food for the week end, any moron should be able to figure out that socio-economic problems are the biggest threat to education in this country. If a child doesn’t have a stable life they just do not care about homework and getting good grades.

  4. What a wonderful idea. Just got back from delivering to the local food bank, and honestly, I never thought about school supplies before although I did donate all of the twosomes slightly used backpacks (really good ones btw) to the Sally Ann and the local women’s shelters.

  5. So, I need suggestions. Today I am cleaning out a lot of er, kids’ junk — most of it are toys that are in great condition but outgrown, like preschool puzzles and wood gadgets etc.
    What would be a good place things like these?

  6. A great idea, RD. Thanks for links!

  7. There’s a volunteer Service League in many cities. Where I live, it is our League that provides the funds to give free and reduced breakfast and lunch to the school district kids in need. They also have a food bank for the children for all the in service and unique days off the kids have from school every year.

    Call your school district and ask what organization oversees the free lunch program.

    Most Leagues also have year around second hand shops to raise money, so consider donating your own gently used items to those.

  8. I’ve posted this before, but it seems apropos here again. I found an organization by which anyone can get food at cheaper prices than in the supermarket. There are no income guidelines, so anyone can use it. The food is good (I’ve had it.) The bad news is you have to pick it up from a church, but no evangelizing is done (not even in the form of inserts in your grocery boxes.)


    • what? they are feeding people and NOT trying to convert them? I can hardly believe it, there must be a catch!

      • Well, I picked up my food at a local Episcopal church and they didn’t try to convert me. That’s all I know.

        • I was teasing… I have never met a church that feed the poor that tried to convert them. Maybe that happened 50-100 years ago. It’s just not the case anymore in the majority of cases.

          • It’s not only for the poor, Teresa. There are no income guidelines. You can be making $1 million a year and still buy your food at lower prices from them.

  9. I was at office max yesterday, they have the small sharpies on sale for 10 cents each – you can only get 6,
    and the pencils were 99 cents for pack of ten, and crayons (24 brights) 99 cents each……..I got my limit,
    went to another store, came back and got another
    bunc h, then this elderly man near me, told me you gotta save where you can, then he brought another set,
    which I paid him, and then it was off to find the zip pack for all the supplies. Oh, I also had three brown bags from Office Max with 20% off all purchases. You’ll never believe it, I went to lunch, and near the entry way were blue, red and black zip packs for pencils/sets – and they were giving them away free.

    Needless to say, I will be taking these down to the elementary school next week.

    • Staples has good promos too…5 cents for a pack of filler paper (limit 5) with $5 purchase. Target also has some.
      Walmart, ironically, doesn’t really …their lowest price is #1 as far as I can tell.

    • very cool fannie. What a good idea.

  10. Yesterday afternoon I posted about the lack of food reserves by the United States government. Since 2008, the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) a federally-owned corporation under the control of the USDA has had zero reserves of basic food commodities (If I am reading this correctly.) I was asked for a cite to a source for my information. I obtained this information (1) from the USDA’s own website: The url is http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/webapp?area=home&subject=coop&topic=rpt, and (2) the following article in the Tri-State Observer.

    The U.S. Has No Remaining Grain Reserves

    June 6, 2008
    Tri State Observer, Milford, PA

    WASHINGTON – Larry Matlack, President of the American Agriculture Movement (AAM), has raised concerns over the issue of U.S. grain reserves after it was announced that the sale of 18.37 million bushels of wheat from USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust.

    “According to the May 1, 2008 CCC inventory report there are only 24.1 million bushels of wheat in inventory, so after this sale there will be only 2.7 million bushels of wheat left the entire CCC inventory,” warned Matlack. “Our concern is not that we are using the remainder of our strategic grain reserves for humanitarian relief. AAM fully supports the action and all humanitarian food relief. Our concern is that the U.S. has nothing else in our emergency food pantry. There is no cheese, no butter, no dry milk powder, no grains or anything else left in reserve. The o°©nly thing left in the entire CCC inventory will be 2.7 million bushels of wheat which is about enough wheat to make 1⁄2 of a loaf of bread for each of the 300 million people in America.”

    The CCC is a federal government-owned and operated entity that was created to stabilize, support, and protect farm income and prices. CCC is also supposed to maintain balanced and adequate supplies of agricultural commodities and aids in their orderly distribution.

    “This lack of emergency preparedness is the fault of the 1996 farm bill which eliminated the government’s grain reserves as well as the Farmer Owned Reserve (FOR),” explained Matlack. “We had hoped to reinstate the FOR and a Strategic Energy Grain Reserve in the new farm bill, but the politics of food defeated our efforts. As farmers it is our calling and purpose in life to feed our families, our communities, our nation and a good part of the world, but we need better planning and coordination if we are to meet that purpose. AAM pledges to continue our work for better farm policy which includes an FOR and a Strategic Energy Grain Reserve.”

    AAM’s support for the FOR program, which allows the grain to be stored o°©n farms, is a key component to a safe grain reserve in that the supplies will be decentralized in the event of some unforeseen calamity which might befall the large grain storage terminals.

    A Strategic Energy Grain Reserve is as crucial for the nation’s domestic energy needs as the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. AAM also supports full funding for the replenishment and expansion of Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust.

    As for my using the word “puma” — I apologize and won’t post here again unless someone asks me for more information.

    • thanks for the info. I do not know what happened yesterday regarding the word PUMA. I still embrace the term. But lots of people think it is a lable they should avoid.

      • I’m with you! Let me roar! BTW, do pumas roar?

        • No, they don’t, which is why they’re classified with the “small” cats, even though a big male can be over 9 feet long and weigh up to 250 lbs. Pumas do, however, purr when pleased and scream like nothing else you’ve ever heard when sufficiently annoyed.

        • I had some kid at mydd call me a PUMA and I couldn’t believe he thought it was an insult. I laughed at him. Obots are as obnoxious as republicans there days.

      • I’m with you & Kate… still proud to be a bitter knitter PUMA.

  11. This post makes me want to share what our school did this year at the end of the school year. A lot of kids throw out all kinds of stuff at the end of the year. At the middle school where I live, you wouldn’t believe the stuff that ends up in the “lost and found” or trash. Our school counselors brought this program to our school. I think it’s worthwhile and some of your schools may want to get involved at the end of the year as well. http://www.greenlockers.org/

    At our school we supply the paper, pencils and etc. that students need. However, there is a limit to what we can supply when students break pencils on purpose and waste paper, etc. Many students of course want their own supplies, so they buy what they want whether they need to or not. I also am aware that at the elementary schools here teachers do have those “lists” that you have alluded to here that include everything from notebooks to Kleenex.

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