Diaper banks across the country strained in face of COVID-19 economic fallout

Posted at 2:14 PM, May 11, 2020

SILVER SPRING, Md. – Corinne Cannon knows every inch of the Greater D.C. Diaper Bank. Shelves filled with formula, wipes and above all – diapers – sit inside the 10,000 square foot warehouse.

“Diaper banks are here to make sure that families have what their babies need to thrive,” said Cannon, who is the diaper bank’s founder and executive director.

Housed inside of it are 1.2 million diapers. It may sound like a lot, but in just 10 days, the diaper bank gave out more than 500,000 diapers – a 300% increase over what they normally see and nearly half their supply.

“We're seeing an astronomical increase in need,” Cannon said.

According to the National Diaper Bank Network, 1 in 3 American families will experience not having the ability to buy diapers for their baby – and it’s only gotten worse since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Diapers can cost up to 75 cents each, especially if purchased at a neighborhood corner store, which, for some families, is the only nearby option they can reach. That cost can add up to more than $200 a month.

“When a baby needs 8, 10 diapers a day, that becomes real money very, very quickly,” Cannon said.

It’s not just happening in the Washington, D.C. metro area, though. The economic woes brought on by the coronavirus outbreak are placing a strain on diaper banks in nearly every state.

“The poor and the vulnerable are always hit hardest,” said Twila Costigan with Catholic Social Services of Montana.

In Arizona, diaper banks are seeing the need spike, as well.

“We noticed an uptick in the number of phone calls we were receiving,” said Leslie Pike of the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona.

In Florida, mothers waited in line at one diaper distribution site.

“This is something that I wasn’t expecting [to have to be at],” said mother Alma Rivas.

Back in D.C. the diaper bank is actively fundraising to be able to buy diapers from wholesalers at a cheaper price than found in stores.

“We do not want people doing drives for us,” Cannon said. “We don't want folks going to a store and taking things off the shelf because we want to keep that supply chain strong.”

They also want to keep babies happy and protect the most vulnerable among us.

“The idea really is making sure that a family has the essentials met to raise that baby in a healthy and safe way,” Cannon said.

When asked why cloth diapers aren’t an option for the families they help, Cannon said cloth diapers are not allowed to be washed in laundromats or communal laundry facilities, like those found in apartment buildings. Many low-income families simply don’t have access to their own personal washer and dryer, to be able to thoroughly clean cloth diapers.