Did you know that diapers are not covered by public assistance programs like WIC or food stamps? And did you know that diaper companies do not make significant donations to shelters or outreach programs, as infant formula manufacturers do? That makes diapers one of the scarcest resources for poor families.

I didn’t know any of this until I read the admirable helpamotherout.org site.

If you’re not a parent, you might be surprised that a jumbo pack of Pampers costs from $10 to $15–that’s 20 to 30 cents each, depending on the size of the diaper. And if you can’t shop at discount big boxes like Target or Costco and instead have to rely on bodegas and chain drugstores, the prices are even higher. Given that even healthy newborns go through roughly 60 or more diapers a week, these critical conveniences become a major household expense.

For families in need, having to choose between buying food or buying diapers is a terrible option, yet it’s becoming an all-too-common one. If a family can’t afford diapers (e.g., they need that money for shelter, food, transportation), what usually happens is that a baby will spend extended periods of time in the same soiled under-garment.

And, lest you’re thinking that poor people should consider the environmentally-correct practice of using re-usable cloth diapers, consider that 1) Most laundromats do NOT allow you to wash cloth diapers and if you’re poor, you probably don’t own a washing machine, and 2) Most licensed daycare centers (especially free or subsidized) do not accept cloth diapers at all.

Read this excellent primer, Diapers 101 for a breakdown of why this is a real crisis and what can be done to help alleviate it. The site makes it very easy to make a big difference by participating in a virtual diaper drive which puts you in touch with organizations needing help. You can even mount your own diaper drive using this nifty toolkit.

(For inspiration, check out this story from Illinois about Father Jim, a priest from the Chicago suburbs, who saw a need and was able to fill it.)


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