This past September 21- 27th, the YMCA of Metro North participated in National Diaper Need Awareness Week, which drew attention to the issue of diaper need in the country. Together with support from Lynn City Councilor Fred Hogan, Tufts Health Plan, and the United Way, Y staff and volunteers distributed 100 bags filled with diapers, wipes, baby necessities, and health essentials to local families. Over 2,500 diapers were distributed in two days alone. This was made possible by donations to the Little Necessities Pantry at the Lynn YMCA from local businesses including Shaw’s in Peabody, Walmart in Lynn, and CVS.
In March, the Y opened the Little Necessities Pantry to help local families in need obtain diapers and wipes for their infants and toddlers. This collaboration began when Hogan noticed several posts in a Lynn community Facebook group from parents who were desperately in need of diapers. Through the Pantry, the YMCA collects donations from the community, and coordinates distribution to people in need. To date, 45,000 diapers have been distributed. Tufts Health Plan became a sponsor of the Pantry this spring, providing an influx of funding and diapers to ensure the efforts continued. The Y is keeping a waiting list of those in need, in particular for formula, wipes, and diapers in sizes 4 and up.
The weeklong event raised awareness about diaper insecurity need, which is rising nationwide because of the COVID19 pandemic. According to the National Diaper Bank, one in three U.S. families struggles to provide enough diapers to keep a baby or toddler clean, dry, and healthy. Diapers are expensive; reusable diapers require an investment of on average $150 in supplies; not an option for a low income family. And disposable diapers can cost $70 to $80 per month per child. Unfortunately, WIC and S.N.A.P programs do not allow for diaper and wipe purchases.
Councilor Hogan was on hand on Tuesday to help Y staff and volunteers stuff the 100 bags. He was appreciative of the Y’s ongoing efforts to meet the needs of local families, stating “I want to thank the staff at the YMCA, Tufts Health Plan, and the United Way in our making sure that the community is taken care of at a time like this. From the very beginning of the COVID19 outbreak, the Y was there for the Lynn community. On behalf of the Lynn City Council, we want to say thank you very much to all who made this possible.”
Providing the ‘swag’ as well as a volunteer on hand to distribute the bags to families, TUFTS Health Plan was critical in the work of the Little Necessities Pantry as well as this week’s events. Shauna Vera, Supervisor of Community Relations, reiterated the need: “Tufts Health Plan is committed to supporting local organizations, like the YMCA, improve access to basic necessities like food, toiletries, diapers, and other baby essentials. We are proud to collaborate with an organization doing such important work in the community, especially during times of need, to get families the essential items that many take for granted.”
The second is longtime partner the United Way of Massachusetts Bay, who provided a donation of diapers, volunteers, and information about free developmental screening for young children through their DRIVE Initiative. According to the 2019 State of Babies Yearbook, fewer than half (46.3%) of young children in Massachusetts are screened for developmental delays. In 2014, the United Way launched DRIVE, a universal developmental screening program that aims to help parents, caregivers and early childhood programs the data needed to engage families in supporting their children’s learning and development and improve program quality. Children under five are screened at regular intervals across the community, using the efforts of Parent Screeners in the community who are trained to provide culturally competent screening and follow-up to other parents. Thanks to this week’s efforts, all 100 families’ received information about the importance of these screenings, and 43 families were referred directly to screeners at Family & Children’s Services of Lynn and Lynn Economic Opportunity.
To learn more about National Diaper Need Awareness Week, the Little Necessities Pantry, or the DRIVE Initiative, please visit www.ymcametronorth.org/national-diaper-need-awareness-week.