Access to Diapers Should be a Right, Not a Privilege
The San Francisco Bay Area is an exceptional place to live and raise a family. But it shouldn’t be just for families who can afford it.
“With inflation and high gas prices, increasingly more struggling families can’t afford diapers for their babies,” says Lisa Truong, executive director and founder of Help a Mother Out. “There seems to be a huge disconnect as the income divide is wider than ever.”
Help a Mother Out has been a lifeline for financially strapped families who are forced to choose between buying food, filling their cars with gas, or something as essential as buying diapers for their babies.
Diapers cost upwards of $100 a month and aren’t covered by most public assistance programs. If a family can’t afford diapers, a baby may spend extended periods of time in a soiled or even a re-used diaper, leading to serious health problems. Most childcare programs require a clean supply of diapers. That means families have to take time off work to provide childcare, impacting a family’s ability to become financially self-sufficient.
Truong founded Help a Mother Out (HAMO) in 2009, in the wake of the Great Recession, to help mothers who had fallen on hard times gain access to as many diapers as they needed. Today, across all programs in the Bay Area metropolitan region, HAMO serves over 6,000 families with diaper-age babies and toddlers every month.
Since the pandemic, HAMO has expanded from distributing diapers to providing additional essentials like baby formula, baby wipes, soap, lotion, hand sanitizer, and feminine hygiene products. HAMO is also expanding its San Francisco Diaper Bank to include families on Medi-Cal. Founded in 2015, the SF Diaper Bank is a partnership with the city of San Francisco, and is the nation’s first publicly funded diaper bank. Additionally, HAMO has developed a grassroots advocacy arm, which successfully helped to push the state to include, in its 2022 budget, a $30 million investment over three years to expand diaper banks statewide.
“This movement to expand access to diapers grows each year and is inspiring more people, municipalities, and communities to figure out ways to provide equitable access to diapers for families in need,” Truong says.
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The cost of diapers has gone up 25-30% since the start of the pandemic, making it even harder for low-income families in the Bay Area to access them. Already families have to contend with astronomical rents and overall cost of living increases.
Karen is one of many mothers in the Bay Area who can’t afford to buy diapers for her baby girl. And the shame she feels as a result is at times overwhelming.
“A lot of people don’t understand how bad I feel when I don’t have enough money to buy a bag of diapers. I want to be able to provide for my daughter,” Karen says.
Even just $1 is enough for Help a Mother Out to provide one baby with enough diapers for a single day.
Executive Director (and Founder): Lisa Truong
Help a Mother Out® works to improve baby and family well being by increasing access to diapers for families in need.
A family’s access to a reliable supply of clean diapers reduces the risk of infectious disease outbreaks, improves baby’s health and comfort, and enables baby’s participation in early care and education programs. Our vision is a day when every baby has a healthy supply of diapers.
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I’m a single mom of beautiful twin boys. I am also a recent widow. When I was laid off from my job one month after my husband’s passing, I felt lost. I was hopeless. Then, two weeks ago, a friend introduced me to this program, and it offers so many services to me and my babies, including job assistance and enrollment in the diaper program. For the first time in a long time, I feel hope.
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