Diaper banks struggle to meet demand amid COVID-19 pandemic

Diapers are often an overlooked necessity for families who struggle financially, and diaper banks across the country are struggling to meet high demand, after many families took a financial hit during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Diaper demand is not something people hear about often, but the National Diaper Bank Network reported a 40% increase in the number of children they served last year.

At the Diaper Bank of Central Arizona, the demand is still great, and they're hoping to get their inventory back to normal soon.

"A lot of mothers report shame and not being able to provide one of the most critical resources for their child, so there is a little bit of a stigma in sharing with your friend group, or even at times sharing with your family group that you need help," said Diaper Bank of Central Arizona President Gabi Young.

According to the National Diaper Bank Network, diapers can cost anywhere from $70 to $80 a month per baby. That’s a huge expense, especially for low-income families. In addition, federal programs like SNAP and WIC don’t cover diapers.

"Families often have to make the very hard decision of if I have to buy my food or buy diapers, can I pay my other bills?" said Young. "So, it’s a very hard situation for many Americans."

The Diaper Bank of Central Arizona collects and distributes diapers to over 25 non-profit organizations across the Valley. Young says in 2020, they were able to distribute over 630,000 diapers across Maricopa County, but that's lower than the one million they distribute in a normal year.

"Churches, businesses, organizations, schools, they all love gathering and hosting these big diaper drives and collecting a lot of diapers for us, and when the pandemic started, as you  remember, everything shut down," said Young.

The bank is still working on trying to meet the great demand.

"We are getting flooded with calls from other non-profits looking to get diapers from us, and from individuals and from families telling us that they have lost their jobs," said Young. "I can’t tell you how many families I have spoken to that have lost income in this past year, and those phone calls are hard."