One in 3 U.S. families struggle to provide clean diapers for their baby, according to the National Diaper Bank Network. Without clean diapers, babies are more vulnerable to rashes and infections.
"There's a lot of work involved in trying to get diaper money," said Dr. Jennifer Randles, an associate professor at Fresno State researching diaper need. "I talked to some moms who sold blood plasma just to pay for children's diapers."
Diaper need has been a concern for decades, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, that need has skyrocketed.
"What we know from diaper banks across the country is that some are getting double, triple, up to six times the number of requests for diapers," she said.
Throughout the pandemic, parents have been laid off, furloughed, or forced to quit work and school because some childcare providers require parents to provide a certain number of diapers.
"If you didn't have enough diapers, you couldn't drop that baby off, and so diapers are a really important part of upward mobility," said Dr. Randles.
The Central California Food Bank is one of 19 diaper banks in California. The organization distributes 6 million diapers a year to agencies throughout the valley such as Catholic Charities Diocese of Fresno.
"Anybody can come in to receive our services. We ask for proof of ID, proof of income, and proof of address," said Ashlee Wolf, the development director at Catholic Charities.
Araceli Ruiz Sanchez has 9-month-old twins and says the support from Catholic Charities has been a relief for her family.
"The money we save on diapers is a lot because two kids use up a lot of diapers," said Ruiz Sanchez. "With what we save on that, we can use it to pay the light and the rent. Also to buy things for my kids who are older. It's helped us a lot."
Federal programs like WIC and SNAP which provide food stamps do not recognize diapers as a basic need. Advocates are calling on Congress to pass the "End the Diaper Need Act of 2021" which would provide funding for diapers and supplies.
"The average a family will spend to diaper one child is about $80 a month. That's a pretty significant chunk of money, especially if you're looking at a family, maybe that's trying to survive on one minimum wage job. it ends up being a pretty significant chunk of that paycheck," said Dr. Randles.
Here's a list of local diaper banks if you are in need or would like to donate: