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Pandemic-era need for diapers not slowing down

One in three families are struggling with diaper supply, according to the National Diaper Bank Network.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — One in three families struggle with diaper need in America, according to the National Diaper Bank Network.

Diapers cost families about $80 a month per child. During the pandemic, the need for diapers grew. Joanne Goldblum, the CEO and Founder of the National Diaper Bank Network, said some of their programs saw an increase as high as 500, 600 or 700%. And now, the need has not slowed down by 2022. 

"The need for diapers is very closely associated with child poverty in the United States," said Goldblum, "And so, about 44% of American children are poor or low income."

According to the group, five million babies and toddlers under the age of three live in poor and low-income families. 

One of the challenges for families is that diapers cannot be purchased with food stamps. There are little other federal assistance programs to help families with diapers. 

Monday, Grace's Table in Grand Rapids gave out 1,000 diapers for a Diaper Day giveaway. Grace's Table focuses on helping teen mothers navigate parenthood. 

“Every year in Kent County there are 501 births to girls between the ages of 15 to 17 years of age. This is just a segment of the population we serve at Grace’s Table,” said Lisa Anderson, the executive director. "And we're serving a larger population than that."

She said on average, a child goes through eight diapers a day, or 6,000 in their first two years. 

"When you think about your basic needs, like food, and water, diapers are a part of it," said Anderson, "One in three women will forego some sort of basic need to ensure that diapers are provided."

The National Diaper Bank Network also works on policy change, specifically to remove sales tax on diapers. A similar measure failed to pass in Michigan in March. 

"At the beginning of COVID, we had all of these people buying more than they needed," said Goldblum, "We saw shelves at the supermarket that didn't have toilet paper. All of a sudden, middle class and upper middle class Americans were like 'oh my god, it's really stressful not to be able to get what you need.' That is the way that families who struggle with poverty feel every day."

In West Michigan, there are a number of resources to help families struggling with diapers. Here are a few of them: 

  1. Great Start Collaborative in Kent County. Great Start has collected more than 1 million diapers to assist families since 2009. 
  2. Alpha Grand Rapids supports families through educational courses and resources. 
  3. Catholic Charities of West Michigan offer a selection of free infant and toddler care items with their baby pantries. 
  4. Nestling Diaper Bank works with partnered agencies to distribute diapers to families who need them. 
  5. Love Inc. Northeast Ottawa County provides baby and new mom items, among other resources. 
  6. Love Inc. of Muskegon does the same. 
  7. St. Like's Diaper Bank helps families in Kalamazoo County.

Also, Grace's Table has a chance for young moms to enjoy pizza and play with their little ones Mondays from 4 to 7 p.m. They're also hosting a Stroll and Roll event on September 10. More information on both events can be found on their website.

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