Back to school gets hard when everything costs more

Youth success
August 17, 2022 •  By Centraide
Enfants avec sac à dos

Skyrocketing inflation has also hit back-to-school expenses. School supplies, clothing, lunch-box items, transportation in some cases, and even recreational activities are soaring in cost, which is causing worry for both families and the community agencies that support them.

Expected increase in back-to-school expenses

School supplies


Lunch-box items


Leisure activities

The families of one in six children in Greater Montreal (one in four in Montreal) live in poverty, while the families of many other children no longer make enough to make ends meet. The Quebec government’s July supplement of $108 per child for school supplies provides invaluable support. However, when everything is under inflationary pressure, we can only assume that some families will have already spent this money on other basic needs.

Despite a range of money-saving tricks (recycling last year’s supplies, scrounging around for sales, swapping clothes with other kids), many families just won’t be able to cover everything. Today’s price spikes are the highest we’ve seen in twenty years.

“Families clearly can’t bear the burden of covering back-to-school expenses alone. Especially not now. More than ever, we need to show solidarity and do what we can to help people in difficult situations. Community agencies are making the necessary effort by providing school supplies to primary and secondary students. They also offer options to help families eat at a lower cost, which can let them free up money from their food budgets for other back-to-school expenses, such as clothing or activities.”

Marie-Lyne Brunet
Vice President – Social Development, Centraide of Greater Montreal

In eighteen Montreal neighbourhoods, community agencies have partnered with Opération Sac à dos at the Regroupement partage, an agency supported by Centraide. This large-scale effort provides school supplies and food to thousands of vulnerable families. In a generally festive atmosphere, the items are distributed to neighbourhood community agencies during the third week of August to mark the end of the vacation period and the start of school. To benefit from this program, families must register between May and July, depending on their neighbourhood.

$25 to Opération Sac à dos = A backpack and school supplies (a value of $100) for each child

Rising prices are affecting not only families but also the agencies that help them.

This year, Operation Sac à dos had to lower its targets, as explained by Audrey Renaud, Executive Director of Regroupement partage.

“For two years, COVID-based emergency funding let us increase the number of people we help. In 2020 and 2021, we gave backpacks to nearly 7,000 children each year and food to over 4,000 families. Since these funds are no longer available, and in light of increased costs, we’ve had to lower our targets. This year, we can help only 5,000 children, which is back to our pre-pandemic numbers. Unfortunately, this represents only 5% of children living in poverty in Montreal.”

Audrey Renaud, Executive Director of Regroupement partage

Need back-to-school support?

Discover social and community resources in Greater Montreal on the website of 211, an agency supported by Centraide of Greater Montreal.

School supplies

Food assistance

ACEF budget consultations