Last year, I had a discussion about diaper need with the executive director of Community Action, Vi See. Diapers cost, on average, $80 per child each month - this can be an insurmountable portion of a low-income family's budget. We talked about the needs of our own clients and the impact a diaper bank could have in our community.
While researching diaper need, I came across a 2013 article entitled “Diaper Need and Its Impact on Child Health” published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The article’s authors concluded that there is a substantial unmet need for diapers in low-income families and that children who are not adequately diapered are at greater risk for urinary tract infections, diaper dermatitis and many more trips to the doctor’s office or hospital emergency room.
But the negative impact of diaper need goes even further.
The article’s authors also concluded that an insufficient supply of diapers affects the mental health of mothers, which in turn leads to potential negative impacts on a child’s health and development.
Additionally, most childcare centers require parents to supply enough disposable diapers to get their child through a day of diaper changes. For infants, that could mean up to one diaper per hour. Not having enough diapers for childcare could lead to lost wages or education for parents who work or go to school.
This research more than reinforced our feelings that helping more low-income families supplement their diaper needs was an important step in fighting poverty in Lincoln. The question became, “how?”
Starting a diaper bank is not an easy task. It takes a lot of resources to do it right. Vi and I were on the brink of giving up when the Junior League of Lincoln reached out.
Several months later, we’re on the verge of launching the Junior League of Lincoln Diaper Bank. The Center will house and manage the distribution of diapers. Community Action will serve on the Advisory Council. And the Junior League will raise awareness about diaper need and raise the funds needed to purchase diapers in bulk.
It will probably be close to a year before we obtain enough diapers to help the other organizations in our community that supply diapers to low-income families. The need in Lancaster County is great. We estimate that there are close to 6,000 children ages 0-3 whose family’s income qualify them for assistance at most agencies. The National Diaper Bank, of which we are now a member, estimates that the gap most families face is 50 diapers per month, which means we would need 300,000 diapers each month to fill the gap. Obviously, it will take a lot of work and time to get there. But, with the help of the Junior League and Community Action, we are excited to get started.