diaper need awareness weekSeptember 25 to October 1, 2017

Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity Talks Diaper Need

Posted on: September 23, 2016 by admin


Diaper need is the subject of the following article written by Emilie Eaton, San Antonio Express-News, and originally published September 21, 2016 by Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, a non-partisan initiative that brings together diverse perspectives from the political, policy, advocacy and foundation communities to find genuine solutions to the economic hardship confronting millions of Americans.

‘This is a Low-level Health Crisis’: 

Families Struggle to Buy Diapers in Cincinnati and Beyond

Megan Fischer was 8-months pregnant with her second child when she scrolled upon an article posted by a friend on Facebook about diaper need.

Out of curiosity, Fischer clicked the link. She quickly learned that diapers are not covered under two government programs that provide nutritional and health assistance to women and families living in poverty.

She burst into tears.

“I said, ‘How could this be?’ What if I was trying my best and it still wasn’t enough? You can’t explain that to a baby,” Fischer said.

Seven months later, in October, Fisher founded the first diaper bank that serves the whole Greater Cincinnati region. The nonprofit aims to serve roughly 16,000 children under the age of 3 who live below the federal poverty level, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

The agency has grown exponentially. In April, its first month of distribution, it handed out 5,000 diapers. In August, the nonprofit believes it will disperse over 20,000.

But still, Fisher imagines she’s only providing diapers for small portion of needy children, 400 out of 16,000.

“We are growing so fast that we immediately give away diapers as soon as we receive them,” she said. “We have no surplus.”

Diaper need is an issue nationwide, according to The National Diaper Bank Network, a nonprofit based in New Haven, Connecticut that supports local diaper networks and advocates for policy solutions.

There are roughly 5.3 million children nationwide under the age of 3 who live in low-income families, meaning their parents may not have access to a regular, clean supply of diapers.

That’s because two federal programs that provide assistance to low-income families – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC – do not cover diapers.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, does provide financial assistance for diapers. However, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that only 23 percent of families living in poverty received TANF in 2014.

Plus, TANF is used to cover many expenses, including rent, clothing, transportation and heat, electric and water bills, leaving very little money for diapers, which can cost up to $100 a month.

The consequences are dire. When mothers don’t have access to diapers, they leave their children in dirty, wet diapers for too long, potentially exposing the children to urinary tract infections, rashes and painful chafing, according to a study in Pediatrics magazine.

Additionally, many child care facilities don’t allow parents to leave their children in the facilities without diapers—meaning parents can’t work, perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

“This is a low-level health crisis,” said James Canfield, a social work professor at the University of Cincinnati who studies poverty and homelessness. “Diapers are needed, diapers are ubiquitous, and we don’t have them.”

In Cincinnati, a grassroots effort

The last thing Fischer wanted to do was start a diaper bank.

She works a full-time job developing content and editing textbooks at Cengage Learning, an educational technology company. Her son, Archer, was 1 ½ years old, and she was pregnant with her second child, Elsa.

So instead, when Fischer learned about the problem of diaper access, she went online and looked for an organization she could volunteer with.

She couldn’t find anything locally, but did stumble upon the National Diaper Bank Network.

“I found a flyer that said ‘So you want to create a diaper bank?’” Fischer recalled. “I said, ‘No, I don’t, but I want to see why no one else here has. Is it really that hard?’”

After looking at the flyer, Fischer decided she wasn’t ready to start a diaper bank. But for seven months, the idea kept popping up.

In September, Fischer attended a spiritual entrepreneurship to build skills for her corporate job. But when she left the conference that was the last thing on her mind.

“Well clearly I’m supposed to create a diaper bank,” she recalled saying.

What happened next was quick and intensive.

One week later, she hosted a diaper drive.

On her birthday, Oct. 4, Fischer’s husband Brian asked all the guests at her birthday party to bring diapers in lieu of gifts.

And on Oct. 19, Fischer received a letter of determination from the Internal Revenue Service.

It was official. She was the founder of Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank, a 501c3.

Megan Fischer, founder of Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank, and Jamie Mack, volunteer coordinator, pose for a photo in the warehouse where they sort, package and distribute diapers to local partner agencies.

A collaboration that connects mothers to diapers – and more

It’s a humid Wednesday afternoon in late July, and Veree Russell sits in a van at the Villages at Roll Hill, a 703-unit, low-income apartment complex located eight miles northwest of Downtown Cincinnati.

The apartment complex, which is also considered its own distinct Cincinnati community, sits in the 45225 zip code, where roughly 61 percent of residents live in poverty.

For 20 years, Russell has served as a nurse and health educator for Healthy Moms and Babes, a Catholic-based nonprofit that serves at-risk women and children.

The organization offers free services, including STD and pregnancy testing, at its mobile van in various low-income neighborhoods in Cincinnati. Nurses and volunteers can also refer mothers to the organization’s free home visitation services.

And in May, the nonprofit began offering diapers to clients, in partnership with Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank.

On that humid Wednesday afternoon, Russell has already served dozens of moms. Three mothers have specifically asked for diapers for their children.

Around 2 p.m., another mom opens the squeaky door and walks in. Russell sets down her file of paperwork and greets her. “What can I help you with?” she asks.

The mom says she needs a blood pressure test. And diapers.

Russell said the new partnership with Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank is great because it incentivizes mothers who wouldn’t normally use van services to stop by. Then, nurses and volunteers can connect the mothers to home visitation services and other types of support.

“Our numbers have shot up,” she said. “It’s been pretty amazing.”

Amy Clasgens, a nurse and outreach coordinator at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, spends time on the van several days in a week. It allows her to work with in-need families and connect them to services at the hospital.

Through her work at the hospital, Clasgens also works for Cradle Cincinnati Connections, a nonprofit organization that connects moms-to-be with healthcare and social service professionals. She can connect mothers to those services, as well.

“The van has social workers and community health workers to help moms with everything else in their lives, not just diapers,” Clasgens said. “To have that point person there for you all-the-time is great.”

Starting small, but looking at the big picture

Joanne Goldblum, president and CEO of the National Diaper Bank Network, was a community-based social worker in New Haven, Conn. when she first learned how difficult it is for low-income mothers to obtain diapers.

One day, she was visiting the home of a new mother when the mom took a diaper off her child, emptied it, and put it back on her child.

“At first, and this is embarrassing, but I thought the mother didn’t know any better,” Goldblum recalled. “But that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that she couldn’t afford it.”

Goldblum said she became semi-obsessed with the issue. She, like many people, assumed there was some sort of public subsidy besides TANF to pay for diapers and hygiene products. But there wasn’t.

“I saw a level of poverty that, even as a social worker, surprised me,” Goldblum said. “I worked with families, a mile away from where I dropped off my kids for school, who didn’t have heat or couldn’t change their children’s diapers.”

So in June 2004, Goldblum founded the New Haven Diaper Bank. She went to the local grocery store with six of her friends, filled up a van with diapers, and soon thereafter, distributed 5,000 diapers from her home.

As time went on, Goldblum recognized the need to reach low-income mothers outside New Haven, but there wasn’t the national infrastructure to support local diaper banks. She also realized someone needed to advocate for policy solutions in local, state, and national governments.

In 2010, in coordination with three other diaper banks in Washington, Arizona and Illinois, and with members of the Huggies leadership team, Goldblum founded the National Diaper Bank Network.

Since its foundation, the network has grown from 30 diaper banks to over 340 today, distributing over 120 million diapers to families in need.

Goldblum recognizes that many people disagree with the idea of handing out money or products for free. Instead, she said, many people like to spend money on programs that offer poverty-based interventions.

“That’s not to say there aren’t people who benefit from those programs,” she said. “But we miss a critical point. Showing them parenting skills isn’t going to give them the money to buy diapers.”

Goldblum said no one solution will provide diapers to mothers in need. Instead, it needs to be a multi-pronged approach, including both charity and policy reform.

She doubts it would be possible to change the guidelines for SNAP or WIC, which are both nutritional programs, but she said amending TANF might be possible.

Alison Weir, director of policy, research and analysis at the National Diaper Bank Network, also pointed to local government efforts that can make a difference.

In 2015, for example, the San Francisco Human Services Agency, which is a department of the city and county of San Francisco, in partnership with a local nonprofit, helped found the San Francisco Diaper Bank with leftover budgetary money. The diaper bank distributes diapers free of charge to families with children under the age of three in the state-run welfare program, called CalWORKS.

Local governments in California, Connecticut, Utah, Illinois, Maryland, Tennessee and Washington, D.C. also reduced taxes on diapers last year. And in Missouri, the state legislature added an additional $335,000 in its budget next year to distribute diapers to needy families.

On the national level, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., introduced a bill in the Senate this year that would create grants, available to both public entities and local nonprofits, incentivizing the creation of diaper distribution programs.

The bill was referred to committee in June, and no further action has been taken. Last year, a similar House bill never passed subcommittee.

“I feel like this should be a bipartisan issue,” Weir said. “But so far, only Democrats have been the ones supporting it.”

Sister Tricia Cruise, president and CEO of Healthy Moms and Babes in Cincinnati, said nonprofits and local governments also need to look at the big picture.

“How do we get women out of poverty?” Cruise asked. “If we are just providing diapers, we are putting a Band-Aid on things. Not that diapers aren’t needed, but if we could provide diapers and connect women to other services, that would be even better. Diapers are representative of something much bigger.”

One day – and diaper – at a time

Fischer, the founder of Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank in Cincinnati, has been overwhelmed by the response to her nonprofit.

So far, she has signed up eight agency partners, such as Healthy Moms & Babes, who work with her to distribute diapers locally.

In the four months since distribution began, Fischer received eight additional requests for agency partnerships. Right now, she doesn’t have receive enough diapers (or money) to meet those requests.

“We have just enough money to get by and provide diapers as is,” Fischer said. “There’s no extra.”

Fischer relies on nine additional volunteers, who fundraise, set up diaper drives and package diapers. She would love for this to be her full-time job, but finances don’t allow that yet.

This year, she plans to apply for several different grants, which she hopes will allow for more additional partners – and ultimately more diapers. But she doesn’t think much beyond that. She’s afraid creating a new plan will be useless.

“Originally, we hoped to sign up three partners agencies and distribute diapers to 100 kids in the first year,” she said. “I don’t know what the curve looks like for us. I don’t want to create a new strategic plan, only to have it shred to pieces again.”

For the most part, Fischer remains in the background, planning, fundraising, organizing and packaging. She doesn’t interact with many mothers, as the agency partners are on the frontlines.

But occasionally, she still thinks about those moms. Recently, she watched a local TV news clip about the diaper bank and was overcome with emotion.

“What got me teary-eyed was hearing from the parents,” Fischer said. “We don’t talk directly to people every day. But when we do hear personal stories, it still gets me.”

So, for now, it’s one day, one volunteer, and one diaper at a time.

Emilie Eaton is a Criminal Justice Enterprise Reporter at the San Antonio Express-News.

NDBN’s Joanne Goldblum Profiled in Hartford Courant

Posted on: September 16, 2016 by admin


When a diaper makes all the difference,” is the title of a new piece by published (Sept. 16, 2016) by Hartford Courant columnist Susan Campbell. 

In the column, Campbell profiles Joanne Goldblum and her work as founder and CEO of the National Diaper Bank Network.  The column is reprinted below.


In the end, it’s never just a diaper.

In fact, it’s never just a school breakfast, or a pair of shoes, either.

There is no one instance of “just a diaper.” Sometimes, “just a diaper” can be the difference between a healthy child and one who needs medical care. Or it can mean the difference between a parent who has sufficient resources to take a child to a decent day care center and a parent who must stay home for lack of, well, just a diaper.

Joanne Samuel Goldblum grew up in New Jersey, the daughter of politically active parents, including a mother who for a time ran a Planned Parenthood clinic. She attended Hunter College, where she was schooled in the Jane Addams way of social work. Addams, the mother of the modern social worker movement and a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, was not a clinician, as some social workers are trained to be now. Addams advocated correcting the failures of a system that does not offer the same opportunities for all.

Goldblum started her career as a social worker at the psychiatric emergency room at Bellevue Hospital, now known as NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue. Many of her patients were people with serious mental illness who’d been or were about to be homeless.

She became adept at helping people at their wits’ end navigate a maze of assistance programs, but sometimes, families couldn’t hang on to stable housing for lack of just a diaper. Now in New Haven, Goldblum began noticing how often something so basic (and taken for granted by people with the resources to buy them) could sink a struggling family.

Activists had created a diaper bank in Arizona. Goldblum adopted their model for New Haven in 2004, and for a while operated the organization out of her home. In 2011, she and other diaper banks around the country formed the New Haven-based National Diaper Bank Network (with Goldblum as CEO) with an eye on providing a basic need to young, struggling families. They started with just 40 banks. Their membership has since grown to 320 banks in 46 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Guam. Huggies, the diaper and baby products corporation, is a founding sponsor and has donated roughly 120 million diapers to the effort.

By the network’s reckoning, there are roughly 11 million children in the U.S. who are of diaper age. Slightly less than half of those children (47 percent) live in low-income families, where diapers, which can cost $80 a month and more if the child in question is an infant, take up a big part of a family’s budget.

Government-sponsored assistance programs (such as SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) do not cover diapers. Yet for poor families with small children, diapers are as much a necessity as food.

In five years, the network’s mission has broadened past diapers to basic needs in general. They’ve had to, while government assistance programs continue to tighten their belts. The D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently said that the spending power of the program that was supposed to replace welfare, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, has fallen 20 percent below 1996 levels. TANF does very little to lift families out of deep poverty here in Connecticut and elsewhere.

In an August op-ed for U.S. News & World Report, Goldblum wrote: “Basic needs are more than food and shelter. Yet that’s what safety net programs provide. In fact, calling any of our safety net programs ‘anti-poverty’ is a stretch. They are ‘keep-you-alive-but-still-in-poverty’ programs.”

So any dream of getting a leg up using the help provided by assistance programs is really just a dream.

As for her career choice, running a nonprofit organization can be a headache, from fundraising to figuring out where to buy office chairs. But there’s precedent in her house for following one’s dream. Her husband, David, was a developer, but is now principal at Hartford’s Pathways Academy of Technology and Design. And, said Goldblum, “I feel like I’m still doing social work. Social work is about changing policy and making the world a better place.”

It’s not that Goldblum believes every family that receives diapers from a diaper bank will raise a child who will be president of the United States. But imagine if every family that receives diapers from a diaper bank had the opportunity to do so.

Diaper Needs Awareness Week starts Sept. 26. For more details, go here: http://nationaldiaperbanknetwork.org/diaperawareness/.

Susan Campbell teaches at the University of New Haven. She is the author of “Dating Jesus: Fundamentalism, Feminism and the American Girl” and “Tempest-Tossed: The Spirit of Isabella Beecher Hooker.” Her email address is slcampbell417@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2016, Hartford Courant



“The Fight for Basic Needs” in U.S. News & World Report

Posted on: August 30, 2016 by admin

screenshot-www.usnews.com 2016-08-30 13-09-21


The following column, written by National Diaper Bank Network CEO Joanne Goldblum, originally appeared August 15, 2016 in U.S. News & World Report.


by Joanne Goldblum

I attended to the big picture stuff, like getting them subsidized housing and making sure that everyone was signed up with Medicaid. As a social worker serving families who had been homeless, I was supposed to help them dodge the catastrophes that could land them back on the street. Today, I understand that it does not take a catastrophe: Families are often pushed over the edge by things so mundane that we fail to provide help or even to take notice. Thus we increase the likelihood that poverty will be permanent.

When I saw my client Sallie dump the solids out of a diaper and put it back on her baby, I was shocked. “That’s not healthy,” I explained and urged her to use a clean diaper every time. Sallie told me she couldn’t afford enough diapers to do that. I reminded her that she was on a number of aid programs, including Food Stamps and WIC, which buys groceries for pregnant women and babies. She replied that none of these programs can be used to pay for diapers – and she was right. Yes, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (often called welfare) pays cash benefits. But those payments do not even amount to the market-rate rent on a two-bedroom apartment in any state in the country.

Sallie was stuck. She qualified for subsidized child care. But centers require that parents supply disposable diapers for their children, and without child care, she could not attend the job training program required to receive “benefits.” And without a job, of course, she could not afford diapers. She was trapped in one of poverty’s ubiquitous Catch-22s.

She was not alone. An industry survey found that one in three low-income American families struggles to afford diapers. Another study, one we collaborated on with Yale researchers, showed that 30 percent of low-income mothers said they could not afford to change their children’s diapers as often as they wanted. I started the National Diaper Bank Network to attack this problem. Our members have distributed 98 million diapers and serve about 350,000 children a month. That is fabulous – and completely inadequate. There are 5.3 million babies living in poor and low-income families in this country. We need to get on the other side of that decimal point.

Feminine hygiene products are essential, as are shampoo, toothpaste, laundry detergent. Imagine preparing for a job interview if you had none of these. When jobs move away from cities, workers frequently find that there is no public transportation option. And here is another Catch 22: If they attempt to save up for the down payment on even an old clunker, they will likely run over the asset limit for public aid.

Basic needs are more than food and shelter. Yet that’s what safety net programs provide. In fact, calling any of our safety net programs “anti-poverty” is a stretch. They are “keep-you-alive-but-still-in-poverty” programs.

Likewise, low-wage jobs leave Americans unable to meet their basic needs. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour ($2.13 an hour for tipped employees!), which would yield $250.40 after taxes for a 40-hour work week. The median rental in the U.S. is $934. There is barely enough for food. Certainly, there’s nothing left for a winter coat for a child, a bottle of acetaminophen, a stick of deodorant.

I am a social worker, not a legislator. My purpose is not to lay out a policy agenda. As a social worker, however, I have a lot of experience with patterns of thinking that trap people in a bad place. In this case, it is a country that needs to change its thinking.

There has always been a suspicion that people take advantage of public assistance and charity – and that both must be appropriately meager to discourage malingering. Every year we see lawmakers in various states propose that assistance recipients be tested for drugs – the implication being that aid to the poor gets immediately diverted to drug dealers. The cost of these screenings would be better spent providing the resources that people need to escape poverty.

I am honored to be a part of a new movement that is fighting for basic needs. People are telling their state legislatures that things like feminine hygiene products and diapers should not be subject to sale tax, because they are basic needs. Anyone who disagrees has, I suspect, never had occasion to use either. The White House has recognized diaper need as a serious issue. They have worked with the private sector to help address the issue of diaper need, and President Obama called for an end to diaper need in America. Congress is currently weighing a measure to dedicate some public funding to diapers.

The Fight for 15 also goes on. And whenever some politician gets an idea about submitting the most vulnerable members of our society to further humiliations just to get a brick of surplus cheese, there is a mighty outcry from people who see the cruel stupidity of it.

That outcry needs to get louder and it needs to be organized. We must make America see the truth that has long stared us in the face: Our policies perpetuate poverty by only fighting it with half measures. We give people just enough to keep them hanging by a thread, but not enough for them to get on their feet.

Sallie could explain that better than I. She could talk about the inanity of a system that left her no way to diaper her baby, and therefore no way to access day care, and therefore no way to get job training.

Why does one in five American children live in poverty? Because we are too shortsighted to give their parents the tools they need to become self-sufficient. In the long run, this costs us all more by perpetuating intergenerational poverty. If as a nation we will not grow kinder, we should at least get smarter.



What Is Diaper Need

The lack of a sufficient supply of diapers to keep an infant or toddler clean, dry and healthy.

Diaper Need Awareness Week is an initiative of the National Diaper Bank Network (NDBN) created to mobilize efforts to help make a difference in the lives of the nearly 5.2 million babies in the U.S. aged three or younger who live in poor or low-income families.

Acting together — individuals, diaper banks, faith-based institutions, service providers, businesses, organizations and elected officials — we can get diapers to all babies in need.


  • Inform your elected officials
  • Increase awareness within your state & community
  • Promote opportunities for you to talk and help raise diapers & dollars
  • Champion change led by you, diaper bankers, and our supporters

Click here for a list of 2017 Proclamations


"I recently had a baby girl. She is 3 months old. I also have two other daughters 5 and 9. I raise them all on my own and have recently been diagnosed with a seizure disorder... I can only work part time light duty. Needless to say things have gotten extremely hard in the past 3 months. I really need some extra help in any way possible especially with diapers, wipes and clothes until I can get back on my feet. "


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