The Chronicle for Higher Education has an article on gifts for school teachers in public schools without adequate funding for supplies.
The writer notes:
Many academics give money to charities at the holidays, and I don't want to dissuade you from donating to your favorite causes. But consider starting a new charitable tradition this year, and offering the gift of supplies to cash-strapped schools near you, or to teachers you know. Imagine the difference we could make if hundreds of thousands of us each took the time and effort to help provide better schooling to the students who will be walking into our classrooms in just a few years.
It's not difficult. If you have children in the public schools, send in a note explaining that you'd like to help out by purchasing some classroom supplies, and ask for a wish list. Get the school's parent-teacher group on board, and have it request lists from all the teachers to circulate to the school's families. If you don't have children in the schools, contact some and ask about their supply needs. Or join with others to donate more substantial items -- to purchase a set of novels for a high-school English classroom, or software for a math course. The tiniest bit of initiative can make a difference.
Addendum: Maine Public Radio in a panel discussion "The Two Maines" on December 18 (scroll down) reports that school teachers often buy food for students. Some go to school just to get a meal. By the end of the week when their parents' pay check runs out, they experience a hungry weekend. The Federal Surplus Food Bank doesn't have enough food because the food prices are so high that the farmers don't need subsidizing. As we know, hunger deceases attention and ability to learn which means that the way to move out of poverty is being undermined by hunger.