Our Back-to-School Program

Since 2005, The River Fund has been helping children from needy families with backpacks and school supplies. This helps parents cope with one of the most expensive milestones they must confront each year: The start of the fall school term.

In New York City, the typical required Public School Supply List costs parents at least $75per child. Apart from the basic school supplies, the average Public School in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx, expects parents to provide “Classroom Support” materials costing another $65 per child. Click here to see the typical list. For needy families, this combined cost is a very severe burden—especially since most households we serve include three or more children.

Over the past several years since we have been operating our Back-to-School Giveaway, the number of children living in abject poverty who need this program has grown by 25% annually. The figure in the areas we serve now stands at 2,000 kids. It is our goal to provide each child with the complete Schools Supply set required by our local schools. Using our not-for-profit status, our relationships with various vendors to solicit in-kind donations, and our bulk-purchasing capacity, we can satisfy the required back-to-school list at a cost of $25 per child—including backpacks, markers, notebooks, pens, pencils, folders, etc.

In general, the Back-to-School program has always been the toughest of our endeavors to find support for. For corporations in the stationery business, the back-to-school season is one of their primary revenue generators; hence, diverting product to an endeavor like ours seems counter-productive. As a result, their support has been minimal.

Foundations that sustain educational initiatives for children view this type of project as too far out on the periphery of the learning-related activities that they support; and those that support needy children tend to direct whatever back-to-school funding they have toward programs specifically for families living in shelters. All of these rationalizations make sense, of course, but the resulting reality still leaves thousands of children who live in abject poverty in the communities we serve without the basic supplies they need to benefit from their attendance at school.
Everyone agrees that education should be the foremost component in any effort to break the cycle of poverty. Yet, it is difficult to find backers who understand that the success of delivering elementary education hinges on the child being equipped with $25 worth of supplies. It is truly the final and least expensive step on the long and costly road involved in providing public education to our children. Even more tragic than the sight of a child arriving at school in September with no learning materials is the aversion potentially brilliant minds develop toward the whole idea of education because of the embarrassment and resentment they feel over being “the throwaway kids” in their classrooms. Why would they want to stay in school?

Please help us provide back-to-school supplies for the children of extremely needy families served by our Hunger Relief Programs. Without our help and your support, these children will keep returning to school year after year with no book-bags, no school supplies and no self-esteem—and as soon as they can do so without being arrested, they will drop out of the school system. The cycle of poverty will continue. To directly support this initiative, please click here.

Click above to see more images from our Back-to-School Giveaway this year.

Nothing beats the perfect backpack!There's nothing like getting your school supplies—when you thought you were going back to school empty-handed!

Parents and kids love our Back-to-School Giveaway Event—for different reasons.

The River Fund Card helps us keep controlThis mother left her kids at home. Our Volunteer Team Member, Lynn Silverstein, checks the client's River Fund ID Card to see how many children she has registered with us.

Having a wide variety is importantHaving a wide variety is important: Kids pick backbacks that match their personality.

It's also important to have supplies for every age-group. Older kids need different items from younger ones.

Click here to support our
Kids' Back-to-School Program




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