‘Overwhelming’ diaper demand leaves local organizations and families struggling to keep up


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Inflation. Supply chain disruptions. Loss of funding. Sky-high demand.

Those are just a few of the issues facing local families and organizations that are doing everything possible to provide diapers for the youngest community members. According to the National Diaper Bank, one in three American families struggle with diaper needs, with costs around $100 a month per child.

“Diapers for sure come second to all of my meals. It’s really hard because I don’t have that much help,” said Angelica Delgado, a Boston mom of three. She burns through upwards of 40 diapers a week caring for her three children, 1-month-old Jayden, 2-year-old Angel and 4-year-old Angelina.

Delgado spends around $100 a week on diapers and gets extra assistance from the South End Community Health Center, a partner of Cradles to Crayons, a nonprofit located in Newton that provides clothing and other essentials to low-income children.

Delgado has been a patient at the health center, where she receives diapers and other supplies, since 2013, but still must go to the store every week for diapers. Even then, she’s not always sure she’ll be able to get what she needs.

“Last weekend I went to Walmart and they didn’t have the diapers [I use], the 4T,” said Delgado. She bought another size, but because they leak easier, her son sometimes tears them off.

A woman sits in a room filled with colorful toys. A young girl sits on her lap and a young boy sits on a small chair in front of them.
Angelica Delgado plays with her daughter Angelina, 4, and son Angel, 2, at their home in Boston on July 22, 2022.

Meredith Nierman / GBH News

During the pandemic, the South End Community Health Center (SECHC) bought diapers straight from medical suppliers with funding assistance from the Boston Resiliency Fund. They were able to give out two large packages of diapers to about 300 families biweekly, according to Kathy Field, director of health promotion and service programs. That funding has since dried up, and they now rely solely on Cradles to Crayons.

Now, SECHC helps 600 to 700 families with diapers. However, instead of coming bi-weekly, those families can only come by twice a year to get two packages per child. Field said this supply lasts about two weeks.

SECHC isn’t the only organization dealing with reduced funding for diapers and increased need from families who are struggling under the weight of inflation and supply chain woes. The demand trickles up to umbrella organizations such as Cradles to Crayons.

Cradles to Crayons founder and CEO Lynn Margherio said due to the size of their organization, they are better positioned than small diaper banks, but even they do not have the resources to help the growing number of struggling families.

“It was bad before the pandemic, it’s gotten worse, and now with inflation at record levels, we can’t keep up,” she said.

Margherio said the main issue is a lack of predictability with the supply chain, so stocking up early and often is crucial. She said Cradles to Crayons will hand out eight million diapers across three locations this year. Since 2019, demand for diapers at the organization has grown 300%.

“We’re finding that demand from the families who are struggling financially is just reverberating up the supply chain to us. And we just need more systemic solutions to address what is a grave problem,” Margherio said.

Joanne Goldblum, CEO of the National Diaper Bank, said she has seen some parents reuse disposable diapers. And because many childcare centers require that parents supply diapers, some parents are unable to work because they can’t send their child to daycare.


“It was bad before the pandemic, it’s gotten worse, and now with inflation at record levels, we can’t keep up.”

-Lynn Margherio, Cradles to Crayons founder and CEO

Diaper banks could “totally use a hand,” Goldblum said. “Everybody could. We don’t begin to really meet the need. We’re trying. But it’s a very, very big need.”

Massachusetts is one of 13 states that passed legislation to exempt diapers from state tax, and another bill is in the works to create a pilot program for diaper benefits. The bill, which has been endorsed by the Massachusetts Academy of Pediatrics, currently sits with the House Ways and Means Committee.

Both Goldblum and Margherio noted the immense stress on parents to meet the needs of their child and make sure they are clean, dry and comfortable.

For Margherio, it’s not just about diapers. “I’m worried about children’s physical health. I’m worried about their mental health and their self-esteem. I’m worried about the parents who just want the best for their kids, and they’re doing the best that they can. But it’s too expensive, and the burden is just awful,” she said.

Watch: “We cannot keep up.” Massachusetts organizations struggle to meet demand for diapers

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