VICTORIA -- With less than two weeks until students return to class, shopping for essential back-to-school supplies is looking very different because of the continuing pandemic.

More parents are staying away from shopping malls and stores in the search for notebooks, pencils and pens. Many are choosing to shop online or place orders with retailers for pick-up.

“You know, at this point we might be a little bit slower, but we’re hanging in there and doing really well,” said Monk Office retail store leader Tammie Wheadon. “We’re fast and furious with our ‘Pick and Pack Program’ and those we are doing about 10 to 12 a day.”

Wheadon says customers can drop off their list of supplies to her staff at the Oak Street store to be filled. When the order is complete the customer will be called to set up a time that is convenient for pick-up.

The office supply retailer expects the demand for school supplies to ramp up in the next few weeks.

For parents who are struggling to make ends meet, the added cost of buying school supplies can be a challenge. The Single Parent Resource Centre on Gorge Road provides parents with basic school supplies for families in need. This year, the agency has seen the demand for backpacks increase by 50 per cent.

“This year, especially this year because of COVID, the changes in their lives, the backpacks have been so much more useful and come at time when they were really struggling,” said Single Parent Resource Centre member services coordinator Yasmine Najjir. “We’ve had a lot of people reach out in the last week or two.”

The centre provides basic school supplies to each level of education, depending on the needs and age of the student. Each backpack contains notebooks, pencils, pens and calculators for middle and high school students.

Najjir says the parents she has spoken with are very anxious about their children’s return to school during the pandemic.

“They’re nervous to see how their kids will fair in terms of their education but they are also concerned about their health,” said Najjir. “Just having the school supplies that we provide makes things easier for them.”

Najjir says because the demand for school supplies is high, the group is looking for donations to help fill any gaps.

For more information on the Single Parent Resource Centre’s backpack program, visit the organization’s website