It’s Happening! A New Initiative Providing Cheap Diapers

April 12, 2016  |


When my mom arrived to the United States from the Dominican Republic, she spoke very little English and had only completed the ninth grade. Needless to say, it was difficult for her to get a high-paying job with benefits and perks. So factory work it was. To add to her financial burden, she married a man (my father) who did very little to help. So my sister, my brother and I grew up with very little.

I remember Mami using food stamps to pay for groceries at the local market. I remember standing on line for government cheese. I remember bypassing the pretty frames at the ophthalmologist’s office to finally arrive at the glass counter where the “welfare” glasses were kept. For years, I rocked plastic pink frames that were entirely too large for my face. It was embarrassing, but there’s was nothing I or Mami could do. Mami was a single mother of three. She did her best.

A lot of my friends and family in my neighborhood faced the same situation – and still do. I have a cousin who can’t afford to pay rent in New York City. She works but doesn’t make enough, and now she’s expecting. Fortunately, she can get help from the government. While Mami was blessed with the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program when I was a baby, a new program is taking it a step further, providing free and cheap diapers to people in need.

Recently, President Obama announced that this new program will improve the distribution of free or low-cost diapers to families that meet low-income requirements. Working with Jet, an e-commerce startup, and First Quality, a diaper manufacturer, they will band together to provide diapers to non-profits, which will then allocate the diapers to families in need in the communities that they serve.

And this is so needed. Currently expecting, I didn’t realize how much diapers actually cost. They’re about $40-$50 a box, which a newborn runs through in about two weeks as you must change their diaper at least 10 times per day. Imagine the cost? Calculate it. That’s $80-$100 a month…for a good three years.

But, is this enough? Will this program aid every mom that can’t afford to spend at least 20 percent of her income on diapers? No, it isn’t. That’s why more needs to be done, like increasing diaper access via hospitals. If they are deemed a medical necessity, which they truly should be, and are distributed through Medicaid it would be a great start. This type of program could potentially reach hundreds of thousands of families and mothers in need.

Like my cousin, Xiomara, who works as receptionist at a hospital and makes about $25,000 a year. Or my friend, Kay, a mother of a two toddlers, who was recently laid off and is collecting unemployment in New York City, making about $4,000 a month max. These women, like my mother, aren’t lazy. They work hard but don’t make enough to provide as they should. Their circumstances have changed. Hopefully, the government and this program will continue to change along with them.

As for Mami, her face lit up when I told her about this new initiative. “Women really need that,” she said in broken English, “I know I did.” Still, she did her best with what was provided and what she had. Though I hated standing online for a block of cheese and felt incredibly insecure with those big frames on my face (they constantly slipped off my small, button nose) I know she did her best. In the end that is all mothers and fathers can do.


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