Programs to help families get free school supplies

As the cost of back-to-school supplies continues to climb, several groups try to help.
Posted at 5:49 AM, Aug 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-22 06:50:49-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The cost of back-to-school supplies continues to climb as families are expected to spend record amounts in 2019.

According to the National Retail Federation, families with children in elementary school through high school plan to spend an average of $696.70, which is up from $684.70 in 2018.

Clothing and accessories will be the top expenses at an average of $239.82, followed by electronics which will average $203.44.

For low-income families, back-to school costs can be a major factor in whether the family can buy food and pay monthly bills.

Several programs in Buffalo are trying to help struggling families:


The Salvation Army is now preparing to distribute 600 backpacks filled with school supplies to children in its programs, day camp and shelter. Major Annette Lock, director of Erie County operations, said the school supplies have come from community donations. More donations are welcome so the Salvation Army can meet the needs of any family that may still come looking for help. More information about the Salvation Army's school supply program can be found here.


Teachers who work with needy children can shop for $1,000 in free school items provided by The Teacher's Desk in Buffalo. Started in 2011 by former teacher John Mika, The Teacher's Desk has grown to a point where it now gives away $6 million in free school supplies - including a large number of books. Pre-registration is needed to be part of the program which seeks to help teachers provide in-classroom resources for poor students. More information about The Teacher's Desk is available here.

WNY Heroes - Operation: Backpack

Operation: Backpack is a special program run by WNY Heroes, Inc. to help veteran and military families get school supplies without the hassle of shopping and dealing with crowds. The program helped over 165 children in 2018. This year, it is expected to help many more. While Operation: Backpack helps families with the costs of school supplies, it is also meant to assist combat veterans who suffer from anxiety or PTSD by providing a less-stressful way of getting their children's needed supplies. More information about Operation: Backpack can be found here.