November 30, 2023

“When families don’t have access to diapers, it’s not a pretty picture.

Alicia Heacock, co-director of Babies Need Bottoms, the only diaper bank serving Western North Carolina, said parents who can’t afford diapers may have to resort to unpleasant substitutes, including “trash bags, plastic bags, or paper towels in lieu of a diaper.”

“It’s not good for kids,” Heacock told BPR, adding that caregivers may also sometimes “try to wash and reuse disposable diapers,” which poses a health risk.

2023 study from the National Diaper Bank Network found that nearly half of American families with young children struggle to afford diapers, marking a 14% increase since the organization first conducted the study in 2010. Among families with diaper needs, 66% were low income.

Babies Need Bottoms reported an even sharper increase in diaper needs among families in the region.

“When the pandemic hit, we had like a 400% increase,” said Meagan Lyon Leimena, co-director of Babies Need Bottoms. “I mean, it’s just like a straight line on a graph. We’ve seen a skyrocketing need, and at this point we’re just trying to sustain.”

Although federal poverty-assistance programs such as SNAP and WIC help North Carolina families pay for food and formula, there are no government benefits at the national or state level that subsidize the cost of diapers for children without medical need…”

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