Canada's first 'education bank' in Scarborough could fail without additional support


Since the April 12 announcement that closed Ontario’s schools indefinitely, Canada’s first “education bank” has struggled to keep up.

“The demand has gone from 35 to 60 kids per week to over 300,” Theresa Pastore, executive director of Parents Engaged in Education (PEIE), said this month.

The needs low-income families face in helping their children learn and plan activities at home are so great they threaten to overwhelm PEIE’s project, the education bank, in Scarborough, Pastore wrote in an email.

The bank, which runs much like a food bank, opened earlier this year at PEIE’s Family Service Centre on Milner Avenue, and Pastore said it is now serving low-income families not just from Scarborough but other areas of Toronto hard-hit by COVID-19, such as Regent Park.

The charity has been run entirely by volunteers, but Pastore said PEIE must raise funds to by items for children it cannot get through donations, and to hire one or two people "so the centre can be working every single day to respond to need."

Besides governments, Pastore suggested large companies — she mentioned Amazon, Walmart and Costco — could step forward to help.

PEIE has distributed laptops and other devices to children during the pandemic, and Learn at Home kits, including books and learning games, to shelters and through charities such as the East Scarborough Boys and Girls Club.

Pastore hopes to move the education bank, along with a technology centre, art space, learning corners and offices, to a proposed community hub in East Scarborough’s former Sir Robert Borden Business and Technical Institute.