In April of last year, when the country’s collective panic over the pandemic started to hit its high, countless headlines pointed out the troubling and perplexing disappearance of toilet paper from practically all retail shelves. But not much was said about diapers, even though there was a similar run on the critical commodity for parents and their young children.
“In the same way that people went out to get toilet paper, moms who had the means went out and got a lot of boxes of diapers at one time,” said Gabriela Rojas, executive director of the Miami Diaper Bank, a community-based nonprofit that supports low-income or homeless families and babies with diaper needs. “You didn’t hear as much about it as with the toilet paper but the reality was that small stores and many others did not have diapers.”
Things were getting messy and Miami Diaper Bank was called to clean things up. Created in 2012 as a community service project by 12-year old Jonah Schaechter as a community service project for his bar mitzvah, the Miami Diaper Bank is now part of the National Diaper Bank Network, the only one operating in Miami. After Hurricane Irma hit in 2017, the need for a local diaper bank was made even more clear and with the onset of the pandemic last year, the demand has grown exponentially.
Even before the pandemic, a study by the National Diaper Bank found that one in three families are in diaper need. While assistance for a variety of supplies has come from many parts during the COVID-19 era, there is no government assistance for Diapers, Rojas explained. Families cannot buy diapers with food stamps or WIC. “Essentially, we have become the support system for local families and there has been a 2,000 % increase in the need for diapers when COVID began,” she said.
Have you ever gone a few hours without diapers for you child?— Miami Diaper Bank (@Mia_DiaperBank) June 11, 2021
Imagine going days…
This is a reality for many homeless and low-income families making ends meet every month. pic.twitter.com/qMGTmGLeFS
Adding to the complications was the fact social distancing guidelines and other restrictions made distributing diapers difficult during the pandemic. But Rojas said that the Miami Diaper Bank adjusted by transitioning to pop-up events to get diapers in the hands of the neediest families. “We did 6 pop-up events last year and have already done 9 this year. They recently went over the 2 million number for distributed diapers since the coronavirus pandemic started – almost doubling what they had done in their entire previous history.
Rojas credits more than 50 partner agencies that help the diaper bank do its work, with a special thanks to The Children’s Trust who funded it as part of its Small Community-Based Organization Capacity Building Initiative. Since the pandemic started, she said that The Trust has increased its support.
The Children’s Trust was able to step up with more financial support so that we could host pop-ups and was directly responsible for the purchase of half a million more diapers,” she said.
“Families with babies, infants and toddlers have been among the hardest hit economically during the coronavirus pandemic. One of their biggest challenges is getting diapers,” said James R. Haj, president and CEO of The Children’s Trust. “The Miami Diaper Bank’s mission is to step up and fill the void for families who can’t get enough diapers and that need has never been more pressing than right now. The Children’s Trust will do everything it can to help get diapers to those who need them most.”
For more information on the Miami Diaper Bank, visit MiamiDiaperBank.com.