December 2, 2021

Keeping babies covered

New York to collect diapers statewide for families

Jamie Costa/staff reporter

Amy Riotto of the Child Develoment Council packs diapers into a bag for AR baby supplies drive-through program. The state proposes a plan to give diapers to eligible families because they’re not funded by other programs.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, the need for diapers in New York has gone up 350%, a diaper bank reports. Yet, while public programs allow low-income families to buy junk food, they don’t allow diapers.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans a program to make 20 million diapers available to food banks across New York.

“COVID-19 has piled challenge after challenge onto hardworking New York families, including the ability to afford the products they need to care for their children,” Cuomo said this week. “Even before the pandemic, an astonishing one in three families struggled to cover the cost of diapers, and the pandemic has only exacerbated this issue.”

“The need is so far greater than what we can provide,” said Marie Walsh, executive director of Catholic Charities of Cortland, which provides basic needs, including diapers and feminine products, through a food bank. “Babies need diapers every day.”

During the pandemic, people turned to food banks and distribution centers for relief in record numbers. In Cortland County, the Child Development Council opened a baby supply drive-through on Grange Place where families can sign up to receive baby and family-planning supplies. It saw a 50% increase in family sign ups between July and August 2020, when a $600 federal unemployment benefit expired.

“Once the pandemic started going on, families enrolled in our program were asking for more support,” said Melissa Perry, the Family Services Director at the Child Development Council. “Our program wasn’t offered at the community level until then.”

The state program would work with Baby2Baby Diaper Bank to provide the diapers.

“Families living in poverty are always hit the hardest during any crisis,” said Baby2Baby co-CEOs Norah Weinstein and Kelly Sawyer Patricof in a news release. “The families we serve were already choosing between diapers and food for their babies.”

Nationwide lockdowns have made accessing food banks difficult, including Catholic Charities and the Child Development Council, which have implemented delivery and pick up systems. Walsh fears some families in the community might not know the availability of resources.

She hopes that Central New York Food Bank, which supplies Catholic Charities, will get diapers, but no date to begin the program has been announced.

Tomorrow would work best, Walsh said, but she’ll settle for an April 1 or May 1 plan, if approved.

“It would be an exceptionally easy thing to roll out as they’re essentially providing supplies from large distributors to the New York food banks,” Walsh said. “Once the food banks get them, you can have them within a week.”

However, eligibility requirements haven’t been announced, Walsh said.

“There will be a need to determine how many supplies families will get, who is eligible for these supplies and if anyone that walks in through the door in need is eligible for these supplies,” Walsh said. “We’ve been identifying the need for a long time for people in poverty whose benefits don’t stretch hard enough.”