NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Store shelves have been wiped out of paper towels and toilet paper since the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the country last month, but few have noticed that diapers, baby wipes and formula are also being hoarded.
For those parents who are struggling not only to find the basic necessities but also to make ends meet, it makes bringing up baby a harrowing experience.
“The families that live paycheck to paycheck that may not have had a lot of money to go out and buy two weeks’ worth of groceries or a month’s worth of groceries … when they did get their paychecks and they went to the grocery store, they were unable to find diapers and formula when this crisis broke out,” said Ginny Adams Kafka, executive director of the Anshe Emeth's Community Development Corporation (AECDC).
Luckily for these parents, the Central Jersey Diaper Bank continues to be there to provide short-supply items such as baby wipes, formula and – as the name suggests - diapers.
Although the diaper bank’s offices are located inside the reform synagogue on Livingston Avenue, the bank operates independently.
The synagogue is the bank’s biggest partner, but it also gets much of its supplies and support from public and private foundations, local government and donations from individuals. It also runs physical and virtual diaper drives and accepts donations from local businesses and children’s clothing stores.
Parents are typically given two weeks’ worth of diapers and wipes as well as one or two outfits, but the clothing being included in the packages has been put on hold to be able to better manage the demands of the other necessities during the outbreak, Kafka said.
The AECDC-Central Jersey Diaper Bank, which handed out its first diapers in 2005, usually serves about 50 families per week. During this time of need, it’s not turning away any families, but it has cut back it hours of operations.
Kafka said that since the coronavirus has spread and store shelves have been emptied, the strain on bank’s recourses has been great. During one recent distribution, the bank gave out as many diapers and other items in one day as it does typically over a two-week span.
The AECDC-Central Jersey Diaper Bank will hold its next distribution on Monday, April 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For many in New Brunswick and beyond, it won’t come a moment too soon.
“I was on the phone with a mother … of 1-month-old twins … and when this whole thing broke out and everybody went to the grocery stores, she had to take her twins to three stores: Target, ShopRite and other places,” Kafka said. “She could not find formula for them anywhere, and she was already a client of ours.”
People are typically referred to the diaper bank through one of the 50 partnering agencies, but during this time, the bank simply asks that parents call before showing up, Kafka said.
She said the bank tries to accommodate everyone, considering that “basic expenses for babies can be quite daunting.”
“There’s no federal safety net program for diapers … and diapers can cost a family between $80 and $100 a month,” Kafka said. “That’s not even wipes. That’s not even formula. Formula for a week can be as much as $30 to $50.”
The bank always welcomes donations of items or money, although it is needed now more than ever. The most in-demand diaper sizes are 1, 4, 5 and 6.
For more information, call the AECDC-Central Jersey Diaper Bank at 732-496-9922 or visit their website https://centraljerseydiaperbank.org.
“Babies … are the most vulnerable people in our community, even more than the elderly,” Kafka said. “They’re born into whatever position they are born into. They’re not making any decisions. So, to do whatever we can to help them start their lives on the right foot is ultimately improving the world.”