I am not usually one to participate in community service projects. I’m great at writing a check but getting more involved than that? Nope. Not me. So, it was strange to find myself driving to the Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank to give a couple hours of my time. I had a vague understanding that there is a need for diapers in lower income families, and as the grandmother of ten, that pulled at my heartstrings. Truthfully, as I rode to the warehouse, I was worrying about how rigorous our work might be because I had a new manicure that I didn’t want to ruin. Talk about being a privileged woman out of touch with the plight of others!
As I tell you the wrenching things I learned from Megan Fischer, the CEO and Founder of Sweet Cheeks, this may seem like a local story pertinent only to Cincinnati and not to my wider readership. But stick with me on this one, friends. This is an important story affecting babies everywhere. Even if your community does not yet work to eradicate this nightmare, there are things you can do. Some sweet little tushie somewhere will thank you.
Here are some facts about the diaper problem:
- With the exception of Early Head Start, most daycare centers do not provide diapers.
- Without diapers, babies cannot attend childcare or early education programs.
- Without childcare, parents cannot go to work to support their families.
- Babies need 6 to 10 diapers each day, which translates to 180 to 300 diapers a month.
- It costs $70 to $80 per month to buy that many diapers, and diaper costs triple when parents don’t have access to “big box” stores or internet shopping.
- Diapers are not covered by food stamps, WIC, Medicaid, or any other government assistance program because they are classified with pet food, cigarettes, and alcohol as disallowed purchases.
- Cloth diapers are not the answer because they are not accepted at most childcare centers and because many low-income families do not have access to washing machines and dryers.
- Four million infants and toddlers live in poor or low-income families.
- Bottom line: 1 in 3 moms struggle with diaper need!
Here are some nightmares about the diaper problem:
- Some parents scrape the solid material out of a soiled diaper and reuse it.
- Some parents take a diaper off, let it dry out, and reuse it.
- Some parents use plastic grocery bags in place of diapers.
- Some parents use newspaper and duct tape in place of diapers.
- Some parents leave the child in the same diaper for 2 or 3 days.
- All of these options can lead to diaper rash, urinary tract infections, and other severe infections. (An ER doctor states that he has seen diaper rashes equivalent to third degree burns.)
- Beyond physical suffering, babies with diaper need have trouble bonding with their moms and can experience emotional delays.
Before anyone blasts me for being a liberal in favor of all social services – which I am – please remember that in this case, a baby is not able to get a job to support his/her diaper habit.
Before anyone blasts the parents/caregivers of these babies, Megan Fischer emphasizes that these adults love their children and are good parents who want to give their kids everything. But, they often run out of options when juggling the needs for food, shelter, and diapers. “Food is food,” she says. “It’s a big choice people are making.”
Thank goodness the National Diaper Bank Network (NDBN) has come to the rescue. Founded in 2011 with the support of Huggies®, it is a nationwide nonprofit dedicated to eliminating diaper need. Its active membership includes more than 200 diaper banks, diaper pantries, and food banks. Just for the record, Huggies donates more than 20 million diapers a year to NDBN through its No Baby Unhugged® campaign.
If you are wondering what it’s like to volunteer at Cincinnati’s Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank, here’s the scoop.
Sweet Cheeks does not hand out diapers in their original packaging. Volunteers are needed to repackage diapers putting 25 together with new wrapping. The newly re-wrapped packages go into the warehouse where they are organized by size. Other volunteers pull these packages from the shelves to fill orders from Sweet Cheeks’ partner agencies. These 25-packs are further packaged into large laundry-type bags, which are then stacked on pallets as they await delivery to the agency. Each agency receives 300 – 25,000 diapers per month, depending on the number of families they serve.
Why does Sweet Cheeks repackage diapers?
- Sweet Cheeks only distributes 50 diapers each month to each child and standard packaging does not work.
- People can return unopened boxes/bags to stores for cash or credit allowing them to buy other things instead like much needed food.
Sweet Cheeks has 44 active partner agencies (and 32 more on the wait list). The agencies are the ones who distribute the diapers – 175,000 of them per month – to 3500 babies in need. The brilliant thing about this delivery method is that diapers become an incentive for families to keep coming back to the social service agency where other programs exist that can help them break the cycle of poverty.
Regarding donor partners, the NDBN allows individual diaper banks to find partnerships locally. Thus, Sweet Cheeks in Cincinnati partners with two big companies with headquarters here: Kroger and Procter & Gamble (Pampers).
Here are some ways you can help a baby today:
- Awareness is key – When people know a problem exists, they can fix it. You can help spread the word by sending this story to a friend. Or, you can share this link to the NDBN Or, you can share this poignant video of Megan Fischer talking about Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank.
- Volunteer at a diaper bank near you if there is one. The NDBN website has a map of all current locations. Click here to see what’s nearby.
- Advocate – If you like to be active politically, there are many options. One is to change state laws to exempt diapers from sales tax. Another is to change federal law to allow the purchase of diapers with food stamps and other government assistance programs. This article in TheNation.com explains the politics of diapers in more detail.
- Donations to a diaper bank are also an option, but remember this: Your donor dollar will go two to three times further if you donate cash to a diaper bank and use their buying power than if you buy diapers yourself. The Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank makes it possible to donate once or monthly. The NBDN donation page allows for monthly donations.
Coming full circle on this story, I encourage my female readers not just to lift a hand but to lift all ten fingers on behalf of a baby. According to Statista.com, the average cost of a basic manicure in 2019 was $22.75. Adding a tip, let’s call it $25. With Sweet Cheeks’ buying power, some child can enjoy 150 diapers for that amount!
Naked nails: a small price to pay to help cover the sweet cheeks of a baby. I’m in! How about you?
Note to readers: Often I end a blog with a call to action, a CTA, to do something like buy my book. Today’s CTA is to do something, anything, to help a child in diaper need. Thank you.