Several non-profits are helping kids return to the classroom this summer with back-to-school supply giveaways.  And no matter where that classroom is, going back to school isn’t cheap. The average household spends $117 on classroom supplies, about $136 on shoes, $200 on electronics, and $240 on clothing, according to the National Retail Federation. 

Free Haircuts, gift cards and Crispy Fruit

For instance, in Chicago, nonprofit Earth’s Remedies will host  ‘Fresh to School.’ On Aug. 22 it kicked off a free haircut/styling event partnering with local hair salons and barber shops. It also gave out meals and gift cards.

‘Fresh to School’ haircuts in action.

On August 30, a Fresh to School resource event will distribute free back-to-school supplies. They include 200 book bags and school supplies, toiletries, over 300 hot meals, produce and frozen meats and COVID-19 sanitation kits. Smart Lifebites’ parent Crispy Green is providing Crispy Fruit snacks (and other back-to-school items including backpacks, water bottles and other school items) as part of its “Using Food As A Force For Good™ mission. Crispy Green is holding its own #BackPackToSchool Giveaway here

Back to School in a pandemic: Backpack full of school supplies and COVID 19 prevention supplies such as masks and hand sanitizer.

“Both events will be Covid Friendly and practice social distancing,” says Charles Pickett, Vice President & Chief Business Development Director Earth’s Remedies. “We are capturing the moments with up-and-coming local photographers and videographers as well.” Earth’s Remedies also sponsored the West Side Clean Up in Chicago after the Memorial Day looting. The Clean-Up  raised $43,000 from 700 GoFundMe donors, benefitting 26 small businesses. The back-to-school fair is its latest community event.  

From Indianapolis to Dallas and Brooklyn

The Chicago event is one of many. Communities around the country are pitching in to help send kids back to school.  In Indianapolis, The Indianapolis Urban League held its 18th annual Back to School Block Party on July 30. The event serves an average of 800 area individuals. In Dallas, the 24th annual Dallas Mayor’s Back to School Fair took place August 20-21. At this year’s fair, school supplies and community resources were distributed over two days to ensure social distancing and limit exposure to Covid-19. 

Dallas Mayor’s Back to School Fair is an annual event.  It will have an in-person and drive through days.

Meanwhile on the East Coast, New York City is holding many back-to-school events through August and early September. Check local listings through EventBrite; advance registration is required. Just a few include: Brooklyn’s Public School 152, a drive-through school supply giveaway on Aug. 15 from noon to 3 p.m. In Harlem, NYSoM will hold its annual giveaway on Aug. 29 from 2-4 p.m. at El Bario Garden on E. 117 Street. In Piscataway, N.J., the McCovic Foundation is holding its first annual book bag and school supply giveaway. It’s on Aug. 15 from noon to 3 p.m. 

A student sports a new haircut and some Crispy Fruit at “Fresh to School” in Chicago recently.

Stuff the Bus: Walmart partners with the Salvation Army

That’s just the start. Most of the family-centered nonprofits host back-to-school events, such as the United Way, Boys & Girls of America and Salvation Army. Walmart Stores and the Salvation Army annually partner on the Stuff the Bus Campaign to collect donations as well as school supplies for families in need.  This year’s drive gathered donations at 4,500 Walmart locations around the country. Local churches and community centers are another source for free supplies. If you are a military family you also might be eligible for special programs. 

All in all, there are countless ways to get free school supplies to families in need.  As the Salvation Army says “Nobody should have to decide between school supplies and putting food on the table.” And if you have more to share: next time you’re shopping for school supplies, consider buying an extra item or two to donate to a local drive; every pencil and pad of paper makes a difference. 

–Patty Yeager 



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