Diaper banks spreading

Elizabeth Wynne Johnson Mar 20, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: One of the things Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget proposes to cut government spending is change the way the social safety net works. Medicaid, food stamps, those kinds of things.

Dirty diapers aren’t often mentioned in the same breath as social safety net. Think about what happens, though, if you need ’em — but you can’t afford ’em.

From Washington, Elizabeth Wynne Johnson has the story, one poopy diaper at a time.

Elizabeth Wynne Johnson: Six-week-old Daniel puts away a lot of milk. It’s fuel he’ll need.

Daniela Maria Leggett: ‘Cause I’m going to be tall, and have big hands and feet just like my grandpa and play basketball.

Until then, what goes in must come out. Which means Daniel’s mom, Daniela Maria Leggett, changes diapers.

Leggett: A whole lot. I think he has like four dirty diapers a day. We run out of diapers so much.

We’re at the Northwest Center, which offers counseling and assistance to low-income families in Washington, D.C. Daniela says she doesn’t know how she’d manage without the free diapers she gets here each month.

Neither does Natalia Diaz-Minaya. Even buying in bulk, diapers are expensive.

Natalia Diaz-Minaya: Maybe a box would cost me about $45. And I use about two, two-and-a-half boxes per month.

Programs like food stamps and WIC don’t cover diapers. Corinne Cannon and her husband stumbled onto this problem a couple years ago.

Corinne Cannon: We started calling organizations and saying, ‘What do you need? Can we give you time? Can we give you money? What do you need?’ And we heard over and over again, to our complete surprise, ‘We need diapers.’

She started DC Diaper Bank, one of only about 40 in the country. But they’re about to a very big boost from a national network for diaper banks and a long-established children’s charity, plus a donation of $20 million Huggies diapers.

Through this new partnership, diaper bankers will be able to tap into the outreach of many more organizations. For its part, Huggies will get brand recognition and goodwill.

Corinne Cannon: 20 million diapers will eventually be used because we know babies go through diapers fast. But what we will have is the awareness that was raised around this issue. Folks will know that food stamps don’t pay for diapers. And they’ll think about it longer-term.

In Washington, I’m Elizabeth Wynne Johnson for Marketplace.

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