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Nonprofit organizations struggle to meet demand for diapers during pandemic

As more families struggle with job losses amid the pandemic, demand for baby diapers is rising at nonprofit organizations in Greater Boston that provide help to people in need of food and other essentials.

Many public assistance programs, such as the federal WIC and SNAP programs, don’t cover the cost of diapers, which can be very expensive, nonprofit leaders said.

“I think anyone who has had a baby knows how expensive diapers are,” said Zach Goldhammer, community engagement coordinator at the Cambridge Community Center. “It’s unfortunately one of those things that you just can’t go without.”

The center teamed up with the Central Square Business Improvement District to raise $12,000, much of which has been spent on buying diapers, formula, and personal hygiene products for mothers, they said.

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The center distributes diapers four days per week, but can’t keep up with demand, executive director Darrin Korte said.

“Currently, we are serving over 250 households per day on average,” Korte said.

Donations can be made to the Cambridge Community Center through their website.

In Chelsea, more than 1,000 women start lining up at 6:30 a.m. every Wednesday for the 9 a.m. diaper distribution at La Colaborativa. They come from as far away as Lawrence and as close as East Boston to take home 10 to 15 diapers, said Dinanyili Paulino, chief operations officer of the nonprofit.

The organization, formerly known as the Chelsea Collaborative, also distributes food, women’s hygiene products, and wipes. Up to 1,900 gather in the food line daily, and up to 1,750 people collect diapers, formula, and cereal on Wednesday mornings, Paulino said.

“So the diaper line is as big as the food line,” Paulino said. “For me as a mom it’s very painful to see moms with strollers, with kids waiting in line [for a] full morning waiting for diapers, and asking also for wipes, asking for baby formula, and any type of baby food that we may have.”

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“It’s a very dire situation,” Paulino said.

La Colaborativa is accepting donations. The organization needs diapers of all sizes, but especially five and six, Paulino said.

Cradles to Crayons, an organization based in Newton that works to fight child poverty, has seen a “significant increase” in demand for diapers during the pandemic, said Julian Feshbach-Meriney, the organization’s marketing and communications coordinator.

Cradles to Crayons has distributed more than 2 million diapers to organizations across the state during the pandemic, which represents a 400-percent increase in demand for diapers over the same time last year, Feshbach-Meriney said.

In order to meet the increased demand, the organization adopted several new measures, including establishing an Emergency Essentials Fund specifically aimed at purchasing diapers during the pandemic.

Cradles to Crayons also adopted new emergency partnerships with organizations especially affected by the pandemic, including Chelsea, Feshbach-Meriney said. They have also established regular, high volume diaper deliveries to key organizations.

“For Cradles to Crayons, diapers are a significant expense in that they are one of the essential items we provide that must be purchased brand new,” Feshbach-Meriney said. “Luckily, our supporters have stepped up during this crisis . . . which enabled us to quickly establish a steady stream of diaper resources for the families we serve.”



Adam Sennott can be reached at adam.sennott@globe.com.