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Franklin County Diaper Drive collects enough for 17,000 diapers

GREENFIELD — Some Franklin County mothers will experience reduced stress levels, health care costs and their babies may see improved health due to the efforts of local organizations, health officials and high school and college students.

This spring, local organizations teamed up to collect 14,000 diapers as part of the first Franklin County Diaper Drive.

They also collected monetary donations from individuals that will eventually net another 3,000 diapers.

The drive kicked off in February and lasted until June.

It was sponsored by the Perinatal Support Coalition, a group of local social and health service agencies that support mothers with postpartum depression, and the Early Childhood Mental Health Roundtable. Clinical and Support Options and Community Action also supported the charity.

The groups teamed up in January to fill the diaper shortage need among low-income Franklin County families.

“We knew there was a diaper shortage just like there’s a food shortage,” said Judith Weinthaler of the Early Childhood Mental Health Roundtable. “There’s food drives, but there’s nothing about diapers.”

From the start, organizations from throughout Franklin County pitched in, including Greenfield Community College’s early learning department, which collected more than 2,000 diapers from students and classmates and Baystate Franklin Medical Center, which donated 5,700 diapers. Other contributors included high school groups, churches and community agencies.

“We had tremendous community support,” said Weinthaler.

The diaper drive is meant to help relieve some of the many stresses that plague families from high health care expenses to food shortages.

For many families, diapers are expensive. They cost $100 per month or more. Federal welfare benefits do not cover diapers. In low-income families, there is likely a food need as well.

On top of the diaper cost is transportation if a mother has to continually return to local convenience stores to buy small packs. Even for working mothers, the cost of diapers can take up as much as 6 percent of gross pay, the diaper drive organizers said.

The partnership between the roundtable and coalition was natural considering the impact a lack of diapers can have on the physical and mental health of the mother, child and family.

Reducing diaper need for low-income mothers can positively impact maternal and child health and mental health, the maternal-child relationship, the child’s development and school success and access to future economic opportunity, the diaper drive organizers say.

Diapers can help foster a positive maternal-child relationship as mothers (or fathers) are more likely to tune into their child’s physical and emotional needs. It can help reduce the parent’s stress levels by enhancing the parent’s positive sense of self and mental health, organizers say.

In turn, they say, the parent’s positive emotions will also reduce a child’s stress levels, which can impact the child’s language, cognitive and social development. It would also reduce rashes, infections and the need to cut back on food to save up for diapers.

Diaper drive officials hope to keep the momentum going, Weinthaler said.

While 17,000 diapers seems like a lot, in comparison to what families need, it only scratches the surface.

Infants require up to 12 diapers a day, toddlers about eight. A healthy child will wear an average of 50 diapers a week or about 2,600 a year for each child.

There continues to be an ever present need for diapers.

According to data provided by the Franklin County Diaper Drive, a 2013 Yale University study found that 30 percent of low income mothers report they cannot afford an adequate supply of diapers. Another 2013 study by Feeding America found that 34 percent of low income families reported that they were commonly unable to purchase basic household goods like diapers, laundry detergent, soap and toothpaste. Of these families, 82 percent experienced food insecurity. To deal, some families cut back on food and medical expenses to pay for the household goods. Further, 32 percent of families reported reusing the diapers and another 48 percent delayed changing diapers.

As such, Weinthaler said the group wants to establish a diaper bank for western Massachusetts on an ongoing basis to meet the need.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 268 On Twitter, follow @RecorderKatMcK

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