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Increased emergency diaper need continues for CNY families even after pandemic peak

Scott Willis
Diapers sit on racks at the CNY Diaper Bank at their former Shoppingtown Mall localtion.

Mother’s Day is a reminder that there are many moms in Central New York facing a daily crisis of diaper need for their babies. The CNY Diaper Bank is urging community members, businesses, and organizations to help struggling families during their seventh annual “Make a Mother’s Day” drive. Founder and Director Michela Hugo says families breathe a sigh of relief when they can check diapers off their list.

"It frees up funds they can use to pay for more food, formula, rent, or bills. This is what families tell us. We also know this keeps their babies happier and healthier, and it helps reduce their stress because they know they have that basic need covered."

Hugo says the diaper bank doubled its diaper distribution as a result of the pandemic, and the need hasn’t dropped off.

"There were probably people who experience higher need during that time and might be doing better. But we're still serving more families because those families were always there. We could double again tomorrow if we had the resources. We're not meeting the full need even [distributing] two million diapers a year."

She says diaper banks in the New York and national networks saw similar sharp increases in need due to job loss or reduced hours. Hugo says the lingering need stems from expiring child tax credits, and because the pandemic shed more light on such an essential item. Hugo says diaper banks are the only ones addressing it.

"I don't think that philanthropy alone can solve it. Until families have somewhere else tot turn, until there's another form of relief, we're the only source of emergency diapers."

Hugo says it doesn’t help that diaper prices have gone up, or that some brands or quantities are in short supply.

Despite being as essential as food, she says diapers still aren’t covered by government assistance programs like SNAP or WIC. But she says they are working to eliminate the local sales taxes on diapers. That would save families four percent in Onondaga County.

Donations to the diaper bank are being matched up to $10,000 thanks to a grant from the John Ben Snow Foundation. More information can be found here.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at