Regroupement des Magasins-Partage de l’île de Montréal’s Opération Sac à Dos campaign: Boosting self-esteem and quality of life for 4,050 disadvantaged young Montrealers

Press release

Poverty is one of the biggest hurdles to staying in school. Improving self‑esteem among students is proven to promote proper educational integration. On August 28, 2014, Regroupement des Magasins-Partage de l’île de Montréal (RMPIM) will be calling on the public’s generosity via its Opération Sac à Dos campaign.

Montreal, August 20, 2014 – Poverty is one of the biggest hurdles to staying in school. [1] Improving self‑esteem among students is proven to promote proper educational integration. On August 28, 2014, Regroupement des Magasins-Partage de l’île de Montréal (RMPIM) will be calling on the public’s generosity via its Opération Sac à Dos campaign.

This sixth annual fundraising campaign will be held in selected métro stations and at various spots around the city, including Victoria Square and Phillips Square. The campaign seeks to raise an additional $40,000 to purchase school supplies and groceries so that 4,050 children from underprivileged backgrounds can go to school, their heads held high, and get their year off to a promising start so they can build a strong future.

Every child will receive a well stuffed backpack, while their families receive additional assistance worth between $120 and $360. Last year, the program distributed $475,000 in school supplies, food and public transit products.

Poverty stigmatizes youth

“Because the goal of RMPIM’s Opération Sac à Dos is to foster self-esteem in children, the program distributes only new school supplies,” said RMPIM patron and Opération Sac à Dos spokesperson Isabelle Maréchal. We can all relate to how good it felt to have a new pencil case, new pencils and erasers and a brand-new backpack when we were kids and how having them gave us confidence because it meant we were just like everyone else. Well, it’s no different for disadvantaged kids today. Quite the contrary: they understand very early on that they are poor, which makes them even more sensitive and vulnerable in the face of the looks they get from others and greatly affects their motivation at school. Studies have shown that kids with greater self-esteem tend to do better in school.”

From now until the end of August, the 17-strong network of Magasins-Partage stores will distribute a backpack, school supplies and an insulated lunch box to 1,950 families. They will also get to choose groceries for their breakfast and to fill their lunch box. RMPIM’s Opération Sac à Dos will allow 7,800 parents and children to breathe a little easier at back-to-school time.

It is also worth noting that families who visit a Magasins-Partage store also gain access to additional resources offering assistance, including community kitchens, literacy training programs, job-finding clubs, subsidized housing and addiction support services. Participants are asked to make a voluntary contribution of 10% of the cost of the groceries, which is a way for them to play an active role in the activity and maintain their dignity. The funds collected this way are immediately reinvested in the local Magasins-Partage store.

Poverty and dropping out: two halves of the same cycle

“Back-to-school is an expensive time. Rising rents and major increases in living costs such as heating last winter are putting thousands of Montreal families in a precarious situation. As a result, the number of assistance requests received each year is also climbing,”[2] notes Sylvie Rochette, Co-founder and Executive Director of RMPIM. “Being employed is no longer a guaranteed way to break free of the poverty cycle. Thousands of Montrealers work for minimum wage; these are the people we are seeing increasingly at our Magasins-Partage stores. Some 40% of young drop-outs said that they enjoyed school and wanted to attend regularly. Opération Sac à Dos is an act of solidarity toward Montreal’s disadvantaged children, a way of telling them that we believe in them and know they can do well in school. A simple pat on the back at the start of the school year can make all the difference!”

“To me, Magasins-Partage stores are a godsend. I lost my job, and without their help, I couldn’t afford to get the required school supplies. With two children to care for, it’s not always easy to make ends meet. Also, when I’m here, I don’t feel like I’m asking for charity. I buy my food. I don’t have to pay much, but I still pay,” said one mother who has made use of a Magasins-Partage store in the past.

 “Our partnership with Regroupement des Magasins-Partage de l’île de Montréal attests to our determination to fight poverty in order to improve children’s learning conditions and promote their educational success,” said Catherine Harel-Bourdon, Chair of the Commission scolaire de Montréal (CSDM).

Poverty and educational success are a poor match

  • 42% of CSDM students come from low-income families.
  • In Montreal alone, more than 142,000 people, including 58,000 children, rely on food assistance every month.
  • In some of Montreal’s low-income neighbourhoods, half of young people aged 15 to 24 do not have a high school diploma. In fact, the graduation rate for people under 20 is 64% at the Commission scolaire de Montréal, whereas the rate is 75% in the rest of the province.
  • Approximately 22.5% of Montreal families with children live under the poverty line—the number is 13% in the rest of the province.
  • Underprivileged kids are:
       - three to four times more likely to fall behind in school 
       - twice as likely to have learning difficulties 
       - three times more likely to exhibit serious behavioural problems in high school
  • Simply put, less-educated children grow up to hold more precarious and lower paying forms of employment, to have poorer physical and mental health, and to be more likely to require social assistance. In Montreal, the life expectancy of people living in poorer neighbourhoods is 10 years below that of residents of more affluent neighbourhoods.

MétéoMédia presenter Patrick de Bellefeuille, co-spokesman for Opération Sac à Dos, reminds us that August 28 will be a special day during which an additional $40,000 will hopefully be raised to help as many lower-income families as possible face the realities of the back-to-school period. “Many families are awaiting our assistance, and this additional money will help more young people in need. In order to escape the cycle of poverty and complete their studies, all children need the right school supplies. Everyone has a right to a fair chance.”

“Back-to-school is very important for so many young Montrealers. It is important to make sure that all these youngsters have the tools they need to start their year off on the right foot. Opération Sac à Dos seeks to make sure that many of them will have these indispensable tools when the bell rings. That’s why the City of Montreal supports Regroupement des Magasins-Partage and its Opération Sac à Dos campaign,” said Monique Vallée, officer in charge of social and community development and homelessness.

“Once again, we are delighted to team up with Regroupement des Magasins-Partage de l’île de Montréal. By allowing them to raise funds in many of our stations and donating public transit products to help families in need get around more easily, the STM is putting its shoulder to the wheel by promoting mutual assistance and solidarity among Montrealers. Our hope is that a great many of our passengers will help make this fundraising activity a huge success,” said Isabelle Trottier, Communications Director at the STM.

The RMPIM’s 6th annual Opération Sac à Dos event is made possible thanks to the loyal support of major partners including the STM, MétéoMédia, COGECO and the City of Montreal.

Donate online at or by phone at 514 383-2460.

Opération Sac à Dos is an initiative of Regroupement des Magasins-Partage de l’île de Montréal (RMPIM). Since 1998, RMPIM has been inviting Montreal’s less fortunate families to shop for groceries in an environment of respect and dignity at back-to-school time and Christmas. The organization serves nearly 21,000 people a year in some 20 Montreal neighbourhoods.

-       30 -

(Continued on page 3)

RMPIM’s Opération Sac à Dos – Schedule for August 28, 2014

Volunteers sporting green sweaters will be collecting donations at various locations throughout Montreal:

·          Square-Victoria-OACI métro station

Corner of Square-Victoria and St-Jacques streets – Donations accepted in the métro station and outside on the sidewalk

Fund-raising hours: 7:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

**Political and public figures will be on hand from 8:00 to 9:00 am

·         Parc métro station entrance building: grass median (7:00 to 9:00 am and 4:00 to 5:30 pm)

·          Corner of Jean-Talon and Hutchison streets (7:00 to 9:00 am and 4:00 to 5:30 pm)

·          Corner of Jean-Talon Street and Parc Avenue (7:00 to 9:00 am and 4:00 to 5:30 pm)

·          Corner of René-Lévesque Blvd and Papineau Street (near MétéoMédia) (3:30 to 6:00 pm)

·         Radisson métro station entrance building: Park-and-ride lot (6:00 to 8:00 am and 4:00 to 6:00 pm)

·          Phillips Square (7:00 am to 5:30 pm)

·          Victoria Square (7:00 am to 5:30 pm)

·          Radisson métro station (7:00 to 9:00 am and 3:00 to 5:30 pm)

·          Square-Victoria-OACI métro station (7:00 to 9:00 am and 3:00 to 5:30 pm)

·         Parc métro station (7:00 to 9:00 am and 4:00 to 5:30 pm)

·          Coffee and muffin sale at 3000 Beaubien Street East (7:00 am to 5:30 pm)

For more information or to book an interview, please contact:

André Beaulieu communication

514 393-3444 –

[1]   A number of studies have shown that academic success in children from disadvantaged neighbourhoods is 15% lower than that of children from more affluent communities.

[2] Last year, 70% of families served made their first visit to a Magasins-Partage store.