LAWRENCEVILLE — A local nonprofit is holding its 2022 Diaper Challenge until Mother's Day, Sunday, May 8. HomeFront's goal is to collect 500,000 diapers and baby wipes donated by the community.

HomeFront operates 36 programs to provide local families with shelter, food, essentials like diapers, and other life-changing assistance like education, jobs, and children's programming.

A third of all families struggle with paying for diapers and there is no federal program dedicated to diaper needs, according to Shazia Buskens, HomeFront's community engagement coordinator.

Programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and other food stamp programs do not cover diapers.

Buskens said in New Jersey, for single-parent households, infant care is 50% of their income. So, there is a big need for diapers. The cost of diapers has risen significantly, close to 20% since the pandemic.

A package of diapers used to cost $25 in 2019 and 2020, Buskens said. In 2021, the cost has jumped to at least $40 a package.

Buskens said what people may not realize is that a lack of diapers not only impacts a baby's physical and emotional health, but it affects their parent's ability to work.

Daycare centers require parents to supply diapers. If parents can't afford diapers, they can't send their children to daycare, forcing them to stay home and miss days of work.

According to the National Diaper Bank Resource Network, last year in New Jersey, four days of work were missed because parents could not afford to pay for diapers.

"At an average cost of diapers at $80 per month per child, it is incredibly unaffordable for low-income families," said Homefront's Community Engagement Director, Meghan Cubano.

Buskens said the inability to afford diapers puts a lot of mental stress on parents. There was a July 2021 Bloomberg article about people thinking of stretching a diaper by keeping them on longer. Buskens said that can make a child sick and cause rashes, forcing them to stay home and out of daycare. Parents are then forced to miss work because they have to stay home to care for the child.

Baby Jesir and mom Denine are excited to be HomeFront's 2022 Diaper Challenge spokesmodels (Photo Credit: HomeFront)
Baby Jesir and mom Denine are excited to be HomeFront's 2022 Diaper Challenge spokesmodels (Photo Credit: HomeFront)
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Last year, HomeFront collected more than a million diapers and wipes and distributed 760,400 of them to needy families.

Buskens said besides diapers and wipes, they are in desperate need of baby formula, baby food, pacifiers, washcloths, baby towels and so much more. A full list can be found on its website.

To get involved with the diaper drive, Buskens said people can donate diapers, or donate money. They can run a drive in their neighborhood, church, or community organization. They can volunteer at the diaper resource center or even order items on the nonprofit's Amazon wishlist.

After the collection, the diapers and wipes are given out during food distribution and to all clients registered with HomeFront that have diaper needs. They also go to the 38 families who have young children, living in HomeFront's family emergency shelter.

There has been a huge jump in the need for baby products due to the pandemic and inflation, driving up the cost of these essentials that parents need to keep their babies safe and healthy. Buskens said any help is greatly appreciated to meet this critical increased demand.

Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at jennifer.ursillo@townsquaremedia.com

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