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The Junior League of Tampa launches Diaper Bank to help local families

Can you imagine not being able to provide your baby with a clean diaper? This is an agonizing feeling an estimated 1 in 3 families experience every day in our country. Any parent who has purchased diapers knows, they are not cheap.

The estimated cost to diaper one child for one month is at least $70-$80. A cost many families struggle to afford.

And consider this…most daycares require parents to provide five clean disposable diapers each day. If a parent cannot provide these diapers, their child may not be able to attend daycare which means they may not be able to work.

It also means many young children are missing out on an opportunity to recieve early childhood education.

Adding to the strugge…most government assistance programs do not cover the cost of diapers.

The Tampa Bay Times recently published an eye opening story we encourage you to read called: The Bottom Line. One in three families cannot afford diapers. Why are they so expensive?

This is where The Junior League of Tampa is stepping in to help with the launch of a Diaper Bank iniative in Hillsborough County and it all started with a storm.

Diaper Bank
Caroline Foss and her son Artie. Foss helped start The Junior League of Tampa’s Diaper Bank initiative.

“When Hurricane Harvey went through Houston, there was a lot on social media about the Houston Diaper Bank, so being in a hurricane area, [I thought] we should probably look into whether there was one around here that the Junior League may be able to partner with. It turned out there wasn’t one serving our county,” explained Caroline Foss, a Junior League of Tampa member who is the brainchild behind the League’s new Diaper Bank initiative.

While the BabyCycle Diaper Bank has been serving our area out of South Pinellas County, the need in Tampa Bay far exceeded what any one bank could cover. Foss realized this and knew she and her fellow Junior League members could make a difference.

Diaper Bank
Caroline Foss’ son Arthur helps his mom deliver donated diapers to Champions for Children.

“As a mom, this need really hits home to me and I can’t imagine how devastating it would be to not be able to provide clean diapers for your children or not go to work because you don’t have them,” she told us as she held her nearly two year old son Arthur.

Meeting the need

With Foss at the reigns, The Junior League of Tampa launched its diaper bank initiative in April with the first diaper drive benefiting Champions for Children’s diaper program.

Liz Kennedy, the community liaison with Champions for Children was thrilled when the League reached out with the idea.

Diaper Bank
Pictured from right: Jenna Pullara and Liz Kennedy with Champions for Children, Caroline Foss and Isabel Dominics Dewey with The Junior League of Tampa along with Arthur, Caroline’s son.

“Together, we can really begin to meet the diaper need in Hillsborough County and it’s quite large,” said Kennedy. “Diaper need is a economic and a social need, but it also is a health and safety need for the child. When you toilet train too early, the child isn’t developmentally ready and there are bound to be accidents. For parents who do not understand developmental milestones, there can be punitive reactions to a small child who simply isn’t ready to get out of diapers and be toilet trained.”

Diaper Bank
Liz Kennedy with Champions for Children collects diapers from The Junior League of Tampa’s diaper drive.

The first diaper drive helped collect more than 1,000 diapers that Champions for Children will distribute to local families through a rewards system.

The success of the first diaper drive was a dream come true for Foss and she’s not done dreaming big.

“The nice thing about the Diaper Bank is that it’s so scalable, it can just grow as the need arises, so the more we learn about our partners here, the more we are going to be able to grow and help serve them. I really think the sky is the limit with what we’re going to be able to do with our Diaper Bank here in Hillsborough,” said Foss.

Diaper Bank
Some of the diapers collected during The Junior League of Tampa’s first diaper drive.

Junior Leagues nationwide on a mission to close the diaper gap

Diaper Bank initiatives are not new among Junior Leagues nationwide, a reason why it made sense to launch one here in Hillsborough County.

“Many Junior Leagues take on Diaper Bank projects. The Junior League of New Orleans gives out 110,000 a month,” explained Isabel Dominics Dewey, the president-elect of The Junior League of Tampa.

Moving forward, the League will be working with community partners like day care centers, pediatricians offices, and businesses to collect diapers. You can also donate diapers to The Junior League of Tampa headquarters on Davis Islands, located at 87 Columbia Drive. Those who want to help on a larger scale can even host their own diaper drives.

To learn more about how you can help with The Junior League of Tampa’s Diaper Bank Initiative:

“Our volunteers will be packaging them and then distributing them to our community partners,” said Dewey.

The Junior League of Tampa has already been purchasing and distributing diapers through it Love Bundles program in partnership with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office which provides a backpack full of basic necessities for children being removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. This year alone, they distributed 20,000 diapers.

The new Diaper Bank will now provide diapers to even more children.

Diaper Bank
Jenna Pullara with Champions for Children’s diaper program loads car full of donated diapers destined for local families.

“Our organization is dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty. For mothers and parents, in order to go work, they need to bring diapers into their childcare facility. Because they [diapers] are very expensive, it can be up to 16% of an individual’s salary to properly diaper one child. If they can’t meet that need, they can’t physically bring their child to daycare which means that parent can’t work,” explained Dewey. “As an organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty, this is a moral imperative.”

Quick Facts about Diaper Need 

  • Diaper Need is the lack of a sufficient supply of diapers to keep an infant clean, dry and healthy 
  • Affects 1 in 3 families in the United States 
  • The cost to diaper 1 child is $70-$80 per month 
  • No government safety net program provides diapers for babies 
  • You cannot purchase diapers under WIC or SNAP 
  • Diaper banks provide assistance to more than ¼ million infants and toddlers each month 

To learn more about Diaper Need: 

Pinellas County has an established diaper bank called BabyCycle Diaper Bank. You can learn more by visiting: 

This story was originally featured in the May 2018 issue of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.

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