FILE - diapers

(The Center Square) – The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the national diaper shortage in Georgia, according to diaper banks.

The National Diaper Bank Network (NDBN) has reported a diaper shortage is affecting about 33% of American households. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, diapers requests in Georgia have increased by 167%, Helping Mamas CEO Jaime Lackey said.

Helping Mamas distributes about 20,000 to 25,000 diapers a month to organizations that serve families living in poverty in collaboration with 200 agencies across Georgia.

"Diaper need is a public health issue, and we believe COVID-19 has exasperated this public health issue," Lackey said.

NDBN research shows that 1 in 3 families experience diaper need. Supply chain disruptions and bulk buying at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic increased the need among U.S. households. Diaper need is defined as lack of an adequate supply of diapers to keep a baby clean, dry and healthy. Lackey said families living in poverty always experience a diaper shortage.

The NDBN reported families spend an average of $80 a month on diapers, while 22% of Georgia's 387,551 children under age 3 live with families earning less than 100% of the federal poverty level. Another 22% also live with families earning 100% to 200% of the federal poverty level.

"Children in low-income families are at greatest risk of suffering the effects of diaper need because many families can't afford diapers," the NDBN said. "Current public support programs help some, but young children have additional needs necessary to build a strong foundation for healthy growth and to reach their full potential."

Diapers account for 14%-16% of a low-income family's monthly budget, according to network data. Lackey said an increase in the retail cost of basic material necessities continues to drive the diaper shortage. Infants account for little more than a quarter (27%) of Georgia's Women, Infants and Children program, which offers food assistance to low-income pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women and children under 5 years old. Children under age 5 account for 14% of food stamp recipients in Georgia, and 16% of families that receive government cash assistance in Georgia have at last one child under 5 years old.

NDBN data showed 64% of mothers with infants are part of Georgia's workforce. Nationwide, 57% of parents needing diaper assistance who rely on child care said they missed an average of four days of school or work in one month because they didn't have diapers, the network reported.

Staff Reporter

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for five years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.