“Does anyone recognize him?” Police in Winter Haven, Florida, asked on Facebook last month.
Police said photographs accompanying the post showed a man walking out of Walmart without paying for his items after several of his credit cards were rejected. Among the belongings of his car were boxes of diapers.
“When your card is declined and you make another try with the same result, it’s not a license to go out with the items anyway,” read the Facebook post, which was later taken down.
The Winter Haven Police Department drew sharp criticism from people for the post, wondering why the department went after a man who stole basic necessities for his children, who was also depicted in surveillance photographs.
One Facebook user said in response to the department’s follow-up post, “It’s a good dad in a tough spot.” “Have some sympathy.”
Following the incident, which was first reported by WFTS-TV in Tampa, Florida, the store asked police not to prosecute the man, despite the Winter Haven Police Department’s waiver of prosecution provided to The New York Times. According. Walmart and the person did not respond to requests for comment.
According to a February 2020 report from the National Diaper Bank Network, a baby diaper organization, it is possible that the person was one in 3 American households who struggle with the need for diapers. The network’s founder and CEO Joan Samuel Goldblum said she suspects the figure may have risen during the coronavirus pandemic as diaper prices rose and supplies fell.
“The need for diapers is a topic that has been swept under the rug,” she said on Friday. “COVID really laid it bare for us.”
The pandemic has upended global supply chains and caused a run-off on a number of products, including diapers. The country’s two largest diaper makers Kimberly-Clark and Procter & Gamble have increased the prices of baby products this year. The price for a typical package of 100 diapers ranges from $30 to $50 from most online retailers.
According to the National Diaper Bank Network, even a modest increase in prices could put pressure on families, many of whom pay about $75 for a month’s worth of diapers for one baby. Many parents have to choose between buying diapers or other necessities, and some leave their baby in dirty diapers because they can’t afford replacements.
For families visiting the store, diapers are not always in stock.
Amanda Trussell, the mother of a 2-year-old boy, said that even before the pandemic began, diapers were hard to find near her home in Junction City, Kansas, and store shelves had only become empty over the past year. Half.
“At one point, we went to three or four different stores to find a pack and had to settle for a bigger one because there weren’t any in her size,” she said on Saturday.
When her family is short of diapers, 24-year-old Trussell puts her son in a reusable cloth diaper. So she didn’t have to go to the diaper bank, which provides supplies to low-income parents.
Diaper banks across the country have recently reported an increase in households who cannot afford diapers. Westside Baby, which is based in Seattle, distributed 2.4 million diapers last year, up 60% from 1.5 million in 2019, according to the organization’s executive director, Sarah Cody Roth. Westside Baby is on track this year to complete last year’s total, she said.
Diaper banks in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania have reported similar trends. Kathy Battle, executive director of Western Pennsylvania Diaper Bank, said many banks give families 50 diapers per month, which covers about two weeks. This is often not enough for families that cannot afford diapers.
Megan V., senior director of community health change at the Connecticut Hospital Association. A lack of diapers can seriously harm a family’s physical and mental health, Smith said. Many parents who can’t afford diapers feel like ineffective caregivers, she said.
“If you’re worried about where you’ll get the next diaper, you can’t focus on singing and reading and playing with your baby,” said Smith, who researches diaper need and maternal mental health.
Many day care requires parents to provide their babies with enough diapers for the day. That means mothers and fathers who can’t afford diapers have to leave work to see their baby, Smith said, which also makes them less likely to have money for diapers.
The federal government doesn’t provide funding for diapers, but that could change if Congress passes the End Diaper Need Act of 2021, which will funnel grants to social services that support low-income families and adults with disabilities.
States have taken different approaches to getting diapers in the hands of parents. A Colorado law this summer set aside $2 million to create a statewide diaper delivery program. Connecticut allocates a portion of its state budget to the Diaper Bank of Connecticut. California, which leads the country in diaper-financing efforts, is one of several states that does not tax the product, and it offers diaper reimbursement to parents participating in CalWORKs, the state’s welfare-work program. Is.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who shepherded CalWORK’s diaper reimbursement into law, said the need for diapers was just as important an issue as hunger insecurity.
“There are many women who can at least breastfeed their baby,” she said Friday. “You can’t have babies and they can’t be diapered.” This article originally appeared in The New York Times.