Back-to-school supply lists grow longer each year. According to the 2018 Backpack Index, parents expect to spend around $637 for elementary school children, $941 for middle school children, and $1,355 for high school students on school necessities—like classroom supplies, field trip expenses, gym clothes, and technology.
For families living on lower incomes, supply lists alone are a serious financial hurdle. Often, when families can’t afford the growing bill, the burden falls on the teachers to fill classroom needs out of their own pocket. A study taken during the 2014-2015 school year, the last years the numbers were available, found that 94 percent of teachers end up paying for supplies, spending an average of $479 and up to $1,000 out of their own pockets. Considering the financial burdens that already come with teaching, this can be an added stress many cannot afford.
But there are ways to help. For those who can afford it, choosing to support companies with one-for-one business models—you buy one, they give one—for your child’s back-to-school needs could help ease the burden on other families and educators. Here are some of our favorites.
Founded when Scot and Jacq Tatelman saw countless students bringing their belongings home in trash bags, STATE provides backpacks to those who could not otherwise afford one. For every STATE bag purchased, they donate a backpack filled with essential supplies to a local child in need.
With 48 million Americans struggling to put food on the table, one in five kids are facing hunger. Cheeky is working to fix that. They sell reusable sandwich and snack bags, so you can ditch the Ziploc, help reduce plastic waste, and save money. But the best part: for every Cheeky product bought, they donate a healthy, nutritional meal to a child in need through their partners, No Kid Hungry and Feeding America.
Cost: Lunch bag: $11, reusable sandwich and snack bag: $8
Founded as a stationary company in 2014, Yoobi’s product line has grown to include most everything your kid needs—and is going to want—for school. Like a Lisa Frank for the modern era, Yoobi’s products are stylish and unique enough to keep your kids happy, and priced reasonably enough to keep you happy. Yoobi’s goal is to ease the burden on teachers in low-income schools. Through the Kids in Need Foundation, they deliver Yoobi Classroom Packs full of enough classroom supplies to help 30 students to in-need classrooms. For every Yoobi product you purchase online or through a brick-and-mortar retailer like Target, Yoobi adds one product to a Classroom Pack. Since launch, their donated classroom supplies have helped over 3 million kids.
Cost: $2.49 and up for supplies, $24.99 and up for backpacks
For book lovers, kids looking to fulfill their summer reading requirements, or parents who’ll have a little more time on their hands now that school’s back in session, Better World Books has it all. Their selection covers pretty much everything from textbooks to novels to DVDs. With discounts as high as 84 percent on some selections, you can fill in your kid’s reading list and get yourself something, too. Plus, for every item purchased, a book is donated to a local library. They also fund literacy programs across the U.S.
If you’re able to, shopping smarter can make a world of a difference to both the environment and those less fortunate. For items like school supplies, a one-for-one mission can give kids an opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have. If you want to take it a step further, fill those reusable lunch boxes with snacks like This Bar Saves Lives or, if your school allows peanut butter, try swapping it for GoodSpread on your kid’s PB&J sandwiches. This Bar Saves Lives provides life-saving bars to children who need them around the world. For every GoodSpread peanut butter purchased, the company provides a packet of special vitamin-fortified peanut butter—called Mana—to a child in need.