CONCORD — The N.H. Department of Education once again is seeking donations of new backpacks to distribute to students statewide who need them for the new school year.

The 5th annual backpack drive will accept donations through Aug. 19, after which the backpacks will be distributed throughout the state to school nurses and law enforcement officers, who will give them to students in need, according to a news release from the department.

“New Hampshire families sometimes struggle with the out-of-pocket expenses of sending their kids back to school, and this is one way people can lend [a] hand” Diana Fenton, an education department employee who created the drive in 2016, said in the release. “This year, ‘back to school’ takes on even more importance.”

The Department of Education collected more than 600 backpacks during last year’s drive, continuing the growth of the program since the inaugural drive gathered 160 bookbags. This year, during the continued COVID-19 pandemic, education department staff will follow safe-handling practices and disinfect the backpacks prior to distribution, according to the release.

New backpacks should be dropped off at the Department of Education, 101 Pleasant St. in Concord. More information on the drive is available from Diana Fenton at 271-3189 or diana.fenton@doe.nh.gov.