About 2,000 children aged 5 and under live in poverty in Linn County. And a month’s supply of diapers can cost between $75 and $125 — which can come down to the parent deciding to pay for diapers or the heating bill.
“The cost of diapers can be exorbitant. Diaper need can perpetuate the cycle of poverty,” said Erin Langdon, a grant writer for the Eastern Iowa Health Center.
So once again the Eastern Iowa Health Center is teaming with not-for-profit Young Parents Network to launch a communitywide campaign — Operation Diaper Drive — to provide donated diapers and financial donations to the Eastern Iowa Diaper Bank, which supplies diapers to families in need.
The goal is to collect 125,000 diapers for local families, said Joe Lock, president and chief executive officer of the federally qualified health center. Seven corporate sponsors have donated 90,000 diapers to get the drive started, while Hy-Vee Food Stores and Drugstores in Cedar Rapids and Marion will offer collection bins throughout the campaign — Oct. 2 to 22.
The groups are accepting new or opened unused packages of diapers as well as financial donations, which can be made at Hy-Vee. Last year, the groups collected 100,000 diapers and distributed about 10,000 every month, Lock said.
He added that more than 900 Eastern Iowa Health Center patients have gone to the diaper bank this year.
Access to clean diapers improves the physical, mental and economic well-being of babies and families. But government assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Progrma for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) — do not cover the cost of diapers.
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In addition, most day cares require parents to supply a day’s worth of diapers to permit them to drop a child off for the day. That means parents without diapers have to leave their child in an unsafe environment or miss a day of work, which only furthers the problem and hardships.
“The thing a lot of people don’t understand about the populations that we serve is that they are not looking to be dependent on a system,” said Brian Stutzman, executive director of the Young Parents Network. “Seventy-five percent of our clients are working, but at part-time or low-wage jobs.
“Any time you can help them stay within their monthly budgets encourages them.”
Parents can collect points to purchase diapers by taking part in healthy behaviors such as prenatal doctors’ visits, well-child exams and dental visits. Some items including earning a GED or coming in for a 20-week glucose test for diabetes can earn more points than other actions.
Leaders of the Eastern Iowa Diaper Bank said they were all surprised at how quickly parents redeemed their tickets for diapers. Parents are redeeming so many paper tickets for diapers, the groups applied for a $15,000 grant from the Cedar Rapids Community Foundation to make the process more efficient through implementing a better inventory and a bar code system.
“Anything that mom is doing that will further health or education of her and her child is what program is all about,” Lock said.
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