Will the Rising Cost of Living Expenses Limit Back-to-School Supplies Spending?

Kids in Lee County will be heading back to school in early August, and parents are gearing up for the 2024/2025 school year. Like last year, many are concerned that the cost of school supplies and essential clothing will continue to increase. Most parents are worried about their ability to provide for school needs that align with student success. Studies show that having the right school supplies can help children feel more prepared and less anxious as they return to school. Children that arrive equipped for the school day feel more confident in their ability to function in the classroom.

FISH OF SANCAP helps Lee County families that have a connection to the islands through residence or employment with back-to-school supplies and clothing essentials!  With the 2024/2025 Lee County school year on the horizon, families are struggling to afford school supplies and clothing. According to a 2023 survey by Deloitte, “Back-to-school is typically the second largest spending event for families after the holiday season. With prices of school supplies increasing 23.7% in the past two years, shoppers’ need for a bargain is even more evident.”[i]

“Those we serve are already making impossible choices between rent vs utilities, food vs medicine, car repairs vs health insurance,” says Manuela Martinez, Disaster Administrative Director. “The cost of basic household essentials keeps rising, and families are prioritizing where they spend, and what they spend on, as it relates to back-to-school supplies and clothing.”

With household essentials on the rise, the Deloitte survey notes that parents across all income groups plan to spend less and focus on replenishing the necessities, such as school supplies, while holding off on nonessential purchases like tech and apparel.?

“I just can’t afford it all,” notes the parent of a Sanibel school middle-school student. “My food, energy and transportation costs have skyrocketed. That, combined with everything we lost from Ian, makes it nearly impossible to cover everything on the school supply list and clothing.”

FISH helps families in need with necessary items to begin the new school year. Now through July 22, community members wishing to donate items can drop off basic school supplies during normal business hours at the Sanibel Public Library, 770 Dunlop; Bank of the Islands, 1699 Periwinkle and the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Association of Realtors, 2353 Periwinkle, #201. Items including paper, glue sticks, pens, pencils, rulers, notebooks, etc. for grades K-12 are requested.

Items may also be dropped off at FISH, 2422 Periwinkle, between 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. through July 31st. FISH is also accepting monetary donations to ensure enough supplies are available on distribution day.

FISH will also provide socks, under garments and gift cards for clothing and backpack purchases to qualifying households. For additional information, contact Merari Salinas, 239-472-4775 or merari@fishofsancap.org.

According to the annual survey released by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics, “Consumers are expected to spend record amounts for both back-to-school and back-to-college shopping this year (2023). Back-to-school spending is expected to reach an unparalleled $41.5 billion (2023), up from $36.9 billion last year and the previous high of $37.1 billion in 2021. Back-to-college spending is expected to hit $94 billion (2023), about $20 billion more than last year’s record.”[ii]

In 2023, FISH assisted 217 students with school essential items and the organization expects an increase in requests this year. “With cost-of-living increases and lingering hurricane recovery expenses, our neighbors are struggling to make ends meet,” continues Martinez.  FISH notes that most all seeking assistance claim reduced work hours or loss of employment as well as unexpected financial hardship and the inability to ‘catch up’ due to Hurricane Ian as the top reasons for financial struggle.

Distribution to households that live or work on the islands and with children in Grades K-12 will take place from Aug. 5-7 beginning at 11:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. at Saint Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church, 2304 Periwinkle, Sanibel.

Additional financial assistance for specialized equipment, scientific calculators, SAT prep books, instruments, clothing and school uniforms, etc. may be available to those showing a financial need. Please contact FISH for additional information.

[i] Deloitte BTS Survey

[ii] NRF Survey