Denver Newsroom, Jun 13, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The organizers of diaper drives aim to help the parents of young children meet a need that can get costly: diapers.
With the arrival of the new coronavirus and mass unemployment, that need is even greater.
“Since the outbreak, local diaper banks are reporting that diaper distribution to families in need of support has as much as quadrupled,” Troy Moore, chief of external affairs for the National Diaper Bank Network, told CNA. “The federal programs that low-income families rely on to help them pay for groceries – SNAP and WIC – do not cover diapers. In most of the country, diaper banks are the only option for families struggling with diaper need.”
“Many diaper bank programs throughout the country are adjusting their distribution models and now hosting drive-thru diaper distributions, and handing out 15,000 – 25,000 diapers within hours,” Moore said. “The demand for diapers is unprecedented, and more support is needed.”
Even before the arrival of the new coronavirus, 1 in 3 American families faced shortfalls in the number of diapers needed, and some 5 million children age 3 or younger lived in poor or low-income families, according to the diaper bank network.
The National Diaper Bank Network, whose founding sponsor is the diaper company Huggies, supports the development and expansion of diaper banks. Its members number over 200 diaper banks, diaper pantries and food banks in 49 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. At least ten of these members are Catholic institutions, including the Bottom Line Diaper Bank of Catholic Charities, Denver; Archdiocese of New York diaper distribution program; and Kentucky Catholic Charities.
In 2019, the network’s members distributed almost 85 million diapers, helping over 187,000 children each month.
Disposable diapers can cost up to $70 to $80 for each baby. An infant requires up to 12 diapers a day, while toddlers require about 8. Families with poor transportation often pay a premium for diapers at convenience stores. For many working families, there is another reason diapers are a must-have: daycares often require parents to provide a daily supply of diapers.
Under such pressures, parents might risk reusing disposable diapers, causing health risks to the child and stress to both children and parents alike.
The coronavirus has already limited diaper donations. Many diaper banks can no longer accept open packages of diapers due to perceived risks of spreading Covid-19.
“Diaper drives are always welcome, but because of Covid-19, many programs have suspended diaper drives until such time it is safe to resume them,” Moore said.
One such drive took place in fall 2019 at Regis Jesuit High School in suburban Denver. The approximately 20-member Regis Jesuit Students for Life Club gathered 46,700 diapers—a figure that Students for Life of America says is a national high school record.
“The response was pretty incredible. We really bonded over the common ground that we would help parents to choose life and help support these babies,” Jack Brustkern, a recent Regis Jesuit graduate and member of the club, told CNA.
“Our Students for Life club noticed that one of the reasons for mothers to decide to get an abortion was because they were not able to support their baby financially, and so we decided to enlist our school community to bring in as many diapers as possible to support these moms who were struggling,” he added. “We wanted to make it easier for them to decide to choose life for their child.”
Brustkern credited success to “the power of numbers.” The drive was a group effort from club members, other students and teachers at the school. The club created posters, set up decorated tables, publicized the diaper drive in school-wide announcements, and arranged competitions between grades judged by which grade brought in the most diapers. The winning class received cupcakes as a prize.
“I think it is important to collect diapers instead of just giving money because it helps us all to really see the impact that this contribution will have on a family,” he said. “It’s a tangible expression of our support of these women financially and in our prayers as well.”
Camille Cisneros, the coordinator of Students for Life of America’s Pregnant on Campus initiative, said efforts to help pregnant women and new mothers continue despite the novel coronavirus epidemic.
“With all of the changes that are happening around us, including losses in employment, it is essential that we continue to support women through these item drives,” she said. “Since we couldn’t host these drives in person after March, Students for Life of America also held a national online item drive, collecting over $15,000 in donations for pregnancy help centers.”
Student service extends beyond these actions, Cisneros said.
“During this school year, our groups held 20 fundraisers to collect money for scholarships that the groups award to pregnant and parenting students on their campuses. We also have numerous groups, like the Texas A&M Aggies for Life, who have babysitting services available to student parents,” she said.
Her advice on how to help?
“Reach out to your local pregnancy help centers to find out what they need whether that is volunteers, donations, or financial support,” she said, recommending the directory at OptionLine.org. “When you meet a young family, single mother or father, or student parent offer your time to babysit or offer to cook a home cooked meal. It’s these small gestures that show women they have the support of their community to choose life and continue to pursue their goals.”
Joanne Goldblum, founder and chief executive officer of the National Diaper Bank Network, said many of the recently unemployed are low-wage workers who live paycheck-to-paycheck.
“That puts them at greater need,” she said.
“The demand for diapers is unprecedented. More support is absolutely needed, both from the philanthropic sector but also from the government,” she told CNA. “We believe strongly, and know, that this is not a problem that can be solved with charitable dollars alone.”
At the same time, she had advice specific to helping low-wage workers, like paying housecleaners or babysitters even if they can’t work or giving generous tips to delivery people.
“Always take a moment and think that the person helping you in a pandemic is taking a risk,” she said.
She referred people to the National Diaper Bank Network’s website for a directory of diaper bank members.
“All of them need donations, either diapers or money,” she said.
Diaper banks can buy more than the average person due to bulk discounts and other arrangements.
“All things being equal, more diapers get to babies by giving diaper banks cash,” Goldblum said.
Advice for running a diaper drive is available at the respective websites of Students for Life of America and the National Diaper Bank Network.
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I understand it’s not practical for everyone to wash diapers and some folks don’t have a way to do laundry at home but modern disposable diapers are a fairly recent invention. Our parents and grandparents didn’t consider them a necessity.
Worse case scenario, there’s always the old fashioned cloth variety to keep on hand for emergencies.
All the shutdowns and drama going on might remind us to be a little less reliant on the market place. You just never know.