PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Low-income families are struggling with the high costs and scarce availability of a must-have for their babies, after there has been a decrease in the supply of diapers and a lot of other essentials at resource centers.
Shockingly, around one in three parents in the U.S. face a real challenge getting their hands on an adequate supply of diapers, according to the Institute for Research on Poverty. One local organization is seeing this play out in Portland.
“I’ve almost been here 10 years. We’ve never had it like this before,” said Maura White, the executive director of Mother + Child Education Center in NE Portland, which provides help for low-income families with kids ages 0-5, with diapers, wipes and other resources.
The non-profit saw a sharp 20% increase in the need for diapers this year.
“That’s the biggest crisis because we probably gave out around 26,000 to 30,000 diapers this summer. And, what happened is we probably would’ve given out more, but we run out in the middle of the month, so that’s just the ones that we had,” White said.
White said they’ve been running out of diapers prematurely since May. She thinks the diaper shortage is driven by fewer agencies offering this service, coupled with greater needs all around.
“Some of the agencies that used to give out supplies are no longer doing that, or they’ve made it a lot harder to get access to their supplies. Also, we’ve seen a recent increase in immigrants and refugees,” she said. “But I just feel like the biggest issue honestly is the economy; gas is expensive, food, clothing, everything is so expensive that it’s made it really difficult for families.”
Doing the math, babies use up to 10 diapers a day, which adds up to 300 a month. So, on average, diapers can cost $70 to $150 monthly, per child.
This cost can be a strain on families and even lead to practices like less frequent changing, which can cause diaper rashes and other health issues.
“We’ve definitely also encouraged people if they can, to use cloth diapers. The problem is not everyone has immediate access to both laundry detergent and actually a laundry facility that’s not a laundromat,” White said.
When raising a baby, White said it takes a village and she hopes donating more diapers can be a communal effort.
In addition to diapers, Mother + Child says they’re in need of rainboots, formula (specifically Similac), jackets, gently used clothes for 2 to 6-year-olds and Halloween costumes. Those interested in donating can find details on their website.