Operation Backpack® FAQs

Why is Operation Backpack® so important?

One of the most devastating consequences of family homelessness is its impact on a child’s education. Helping students succeed in school is critical to breaking this cycle of intergenerational poverty and homelessness.

We know that having a full complement of school supplies plays a role in higher rates of homework completion, class participation and, ultimately, graduation, but backpacks and school supplies are costly—an average of $80 per child. This is an expense that most families living in shelter cannot afford.

Who receives our backpacks?

Through Operation Backpack®, VOA-Greater New York ensures every child living in any New York City homeless shelter has a full backpack in time for the first day of school. We are proud to distribute to more than 200 shelters across all five boroughs. Unfortunately, we are not able to provide backpacks or school supplies to the general public at this time.

What are the children given?

Every child is given a new, high-quality backpack and brand new school supplies according to their grade. For example, high school students get a dictionary and a scientific calculator, while the youngest children receive watercolor paint sets. Our supply lists are curated to align with what's required by the NYC Department of Education to make sure every child has what they need.

How is Operation Backpack® funded?

VOA-Greater New York relies on the generosity of the community to make Operation Backpack® possible, including our many corporate partners. Make a donation, create a fundraising team or learn how you can become an official sponsor.

When was Operation Backpack® started?

Every year since 2003, VOA-Greater New York has been providing backpacks and school supplies to children living in our city's homeless shelters through Operation Backpack®. What started as a small initiative to provide gently-used backpacks and supplies to the children living in our own shelters, has grown into one of the largest back-to-school drives in the area.

What makes Operation Backpack® unique?

We put respect for the child at the center. School supplies are top quality and we acquire a variety of backpacks so they cannot be identified as "shelter backpacks." We also make sure children receive their backpacks and supplies before the first day of school, so they can walk in on day one looking and feeling like their classmates.

Help children experiencing homelessness thrive in school and beyond!