Need for Diaper Banks Spikes During Covid

Written by: Barry Waldman

Even prior to COVID, one in three families with young children was reported to be struggling to afford diapers. Diapers are not covered by federal subsidies like Food Stamps (SNAP) and WIC, but their cost can cause an economic hardship for low-income families. Consider that the average baby goes through seven to 12 diapers a day, according to the National Diaper Bank Network, at a monthly cost of $70 to $80 per child in diapers. 

As a result, many babies are left in diapers too long, causing rashes and discomfort, and hampering normal development.  

Nearly 300K Donated Diapers 

Two local organizations addressing this concern have distributed nearly 300,000 diapers to local families over the past year, a huge increase over previous years. The Junior League of Charleston’s Diaper Bank and North Charleston-based Bundles of Joy ramped up operations during Covid, when unemployment spiked and low-income families struggled financially even more than usual. 

“With people losing jobs and facing hardships it is difficult to choose between diapers and food. If families can’t afford diapers, children can’t attend day care, parents can’t make an income and the cycle of poverty continues,” lamented Beth Meredith, Junior League president. 

Junior League members and supporters host diaper drives and donate funds to the diaper bank, and can contribute through Amazon Wish ListWalmart Registry for Good, and Target Charity Registry. During Junior League’s Spring diaper drive April 17-24, groups can host their own diaper drives using provided collateral materials and instructions at the Diaper Bank page on the JL website. Numerous sponsors, such as Rev Fed Credit union and Wendy’s, and volunteer groups like the staff at Atlas Technologies, have come forward to support the effort. 

The collected diapers are distributed through a network of nine organizations, principally the Shifa Clinic in Mount Pleasant, a Muslim-based healthcare and poverty-prevention charity. Its mission is “to provide compassionate and high quality medical care to uninsured, indigent adult residents of our community regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or national origin and to put into practice the Islamic teachings of compassion, mercy and service to humanity.”  The Shifa Clinic was founded by Dr. Reshma Khan, an OB-GYN who worked at the VA Hospital with her radiologist husband but left to launch and manage this free medical clinic. 

Addressing a Need, Not Filling It 

Bundles of Joy is largely a one-woman operation that serves 3,300 children and distributes about half the diapers itself through a variety of partners across the Lowcountry. It receives critical support from First Choice by Select Health, Awaken Church, Molina Health Care and other businesses and individuals. 

Founder Anna Javaux cautions that without government funding, diaper banks can help fill the gaps, but they aren’t total solutions. Families each receive 15-45 diapers for a month from Bundles of Joy, which might last a week at best. 

To partner with Bundles of Joy you can donate through the website or through its Amazon wish list

Why do diapers matter to the area’s economic development, the primary concern of the Lowcountry Graduate Center? Parents with children in distress can’t work, earn a living, and contribute economically to the community. Children in ill health, precluded from child care, struggle to achieve academically and lose opportunities to become contributing members of society as adults. There is no better economic investment than in children.  

Tears of Gratitude from Recipients 

Diaper contributions are always appreciated, but diaper banks can leverage financial donations for a much greater impact. Through relationships with wholesalers and retailers, diaper banks can procure diapers at a fraction of the retail cost.  

Diaper contributions can bring tears of relief from recipients for removing one stressor from the list facing them. Shifa Clinic reported on one single mother of three whose husband lost his life to Covid. Emotionally drained from grief and anxiety, her tears of gratitude could be seen around her mask when she was offered the gift of diapers from the Junior League, an organization that has served as a catalyst for change in the Lowcountry since 1923. 

“This is my passion,” says Javaux about Bundles of Joy. “I really just believe we’re supposed to serve the community and I feel so much joy when I see our families come back and say this is helping them.”