By RICK KAZMER
United Way of the Southern Alleghenies
A stable supply of diapers not only means clean baby-bottoms, it also can alleviate stress, worry, and other factors that can impact family health.
Surprisingly, about half of U.S. families don't have enough diapers each month, resulting in alarming problems, according to the National Diaper Bank Network. The network studies diaper need, and its impact on growing families.
And, that need is growing, up from 2010 when about one-third of families struggled with diaper supply.
“Keeping babies clean, dry, and healthy is paramount to reducing toxic stress. These babies are at risk for painful rashes and urinary tract infection as well as costly trips to a doctor,” said Karen Struble Myers, CEO of the United Way of the Southern Alleghenies.
THE LOCAL SOLUTION
The United Way started a Diaper Bank in 2021 to address this need. A network of distribution points from southern Somerset County to northern Cambria County are open the last Tuesday of each month to provide a supplemental supply of diapers to families.
The national need is reflected locally, as demand for diapers is growing each month. The United Way is now giving out close to 6,000 diapers a month.
"I have three children under 3, so providing them diapers is very expensive," a mom participating in the diaper bank told WTAJ-TV in a recent report.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT
Diaper need impacts a family's ability to buy other essentials, including, food, formula, or pay for utility bills. The National Diaper Bank Network said that 46% of families surveyed cut back on other expenses so they could buy enough diapers.
The network's study found that 70% of families suffered from stress and anxiety as a result of this problem, in part due to the fear of being judged as a bad parent because they can't afford diapers. Some families reported skipping meals. What's more, diaper need wasn't limited to low-income homes. About 34% of homes in need of diapers were middle-income or higher.
The problem is also a circular one, as it can impact parents' ability to earn wages. About a quarter of parents and caregivers with diaper need told the network that they had to miss work or school, as they can't get their children into childcare without a diaper supply. In terms of dollars, the average loss of income is estimated at $296 per month for a parent earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, according to the network's survey.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
You can make a direct, local impact to help families in Cambria and Somerset counties facing this need. The United Way Diaper Bank needs diapers and wipes of all sizes, but specifically sizes 5,6,7, 3T, and 4T. The organization accepts partial packages of diapers, as well.
To support the diaper bank:
- Organize a diaper drive at your church, workplace, or other agency.
- Drop-off or schedule a diaper donation pickup. Every package helps, even partial bundles.
- Shop online and have the diapers delivered to the United Way. Go to our Amazon wish list here (https://a.co/1Svf7hg). Diapers can be mailed to: UWSA, 422 Main St., Suite 203, Johnstown PA 15901.
- Send monetary donations to United Way to buy diapers in the size of greatest need. Put "Diaper Bank" in the subject line of checks, which can be sent to UWSA, 422 Main St., Suite 203, Johnstown PA 15901. You can also donate by credit card using our secure site: www.uwlaurel.org/donatediaper
“Clean diapers are a basic need of every baby and toddler. Together, we can ensure that every child has what they need to thrive," Struble Myers said.