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At least 1 in 3 American families is facing a diaper shortage

Supply chain issues and rising material costs put parents in a tight spot during the pandemic.
/ Source: TODAY

Many parents are getting desperate for basic necessities for their children — namely, diapers.

Last month, a dad in Florida was arrested when he walked out of a Walmart with a cart full of diapers and baby wipes after his card was declined multiple times.

He's not alone. Financial struggles during the coronavirus pandemic and diaper shortages around the country, created by disruptions in supply chains and bulk buying, have made it more difficult for families to maintain a steady supply of diapers for their children.

Baby2Baby, a charity that provides diapers, clothing and other baby necessities to families living in poverty, told TODAY Parents that requests for diaper donations have increased 500% during the pandemic, while diaper costs rose 10% during the same time.

"Before the pandemic, one in three families already couldn’t afford diapers," Baby2Baby co-CEO Kelly Sawyer Patricof told TODAY Parents last month. "Packages that were costing $25 last year are $40 (now) and fewer diapers are inside them. Parents are paying more for less."

The National Diaper Bank Network defines diaper need as "the lack of a sufficient supply of diapers to keep an infant or child clean, dry and healthy" and notes that government programs, like food stamps and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), do not provide funding for diapers.

“Supply chain issues and rising costs of material basic necessities disproportionately impact low-wage families and those living in poverty, and can lead to increased levels of diaper need," Joanne Samuel Goldblum, CEO and founder of the National Diaper Bank Network, told TODAY Parents.

Brinn Williams, a mom of three in Lincoln, Nebraska, spends between $28-$30 per box of 150 diapers. She estimates that she goes through about eight diapers a day for her 8-month-old daughter, Rebel.

"The bigger the size you get, the fewer diapers are in it," Williams told TODAY Parents, adding that diaper sizing goes by pounds. "I guess companies assume they can hold their bladders longer (when they're bigger)."

But it's not as simple as switching to cloth diapering to cut costs. Williams shared that cloth diapering isn't an option for her, or many other families.

"Even if I wanted to cloth diaper, it's finding a day care provider that would work with me," she said.

Diapers are not the only way global supply chain issues are impacting kids. Supply disruptions coupled with labor shortages are making serving school lunches a struggle.

"There are supply chain issues. Issues with food distributors. The inability to keep people employed. Driver shortages," Liz Campbell, senior director of legislative and government affairs at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told TODAY last month. "Every week, it's like, what's next?"

Here's how to help families struggling with diaper need:

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