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Exclusive: New York state will offer free diapers at food banks amid ongoing COVID-19 recession

The Empire State is partnering with L.A.-based Baby2Baby, which will provide 20 million diapers to New York families.

Exclusive: New York state will offer free diapers at food banks amid ongoing COVID-19 recession
[Photo: FotoDuets/iStock]
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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is establishing a program to distribute free diapers through food banks throughout the state, starting as early as March.

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“COVID-19 has piled challenge after challenge onto hardworking New York families, including the ability to afford the products they need to care for their children,” Cuomo said. New York’s statewide unemployment rate in December topped 8%, up from about 4% a year earlier.

Baby2Baby, a national nonprofit, will donate 20 million diapers to establish the “diaper bank.” Baby2Baby cofounders and Co-CEOs Norah Weinstein and Kelly Sawyer Patricof said they’ve seen a 350% increase in requests for diapers since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago. “You ask a low-income mom what her biggest struggle is, and she starts with diapers,” Weinstein said.

Many benefit programs for needy families, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), don’t cover diapers, and Weinstein noted that many food banks aren’t allowed to use their funding for diapers.

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Baby2Baby has had a presence in New York for years, partnering with nonprofits and individual organizations to donate essentials for babies and children. (In addition to diapers, it provides wipes, clothes, and other basics.) But the diaper bank marks its first partnership with New York state. State officials say they’d been looking since the summer of 2020 for a way to provide free diapers to families.

Baby2Baby, which boasts a star-studded board of directors, including celebrity entrepreneurs Jessica Alba and Nicole Richie, singer Kelly Rowland, and venture capitalist Dana Settle, brings its scale to the partnership. Through its network of community groups and other organizations, Baby2Baby said it served a million children in 100 cities last year. The group’s corporate sponsors and donors include Huggies, the Honest Company, Mattel, Hasbro, Graco, and Johnson & Johnson.

Baby2Baby’s mission goes beyond access to diapers, according to Sawyer Patricof. She notes that children will skip school if they have to wear the same clothes every day or lack access to soap and shampoo. “This is about giving families access to all the basic essentials so that their children can be on an even playing field with other children,” she said.

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“No parent should ever have to worry about affording basic products they need to keep their children healthy,” said Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor and chair of the Governor’s Council on Women and Girls.

The governor’s office says the program, dubbed the New York State Cares + Baby2Baby Diaper Bank, is part of his broader agenda on women’s issues. It also complements the Nourish New York program that the state announced in April 2020. As part of that program, last year the state purchased more than $25 million in food from New York farmers and routed it to food banks. Last month the state earmarked another $25 million to continue that initiative.