At the National Diaper Bank Network our focus is on diapers, but the truth is that other products necessary for good health and hygiene, like soap, may be out of reach for people in need. Here is one project bringing soap to people living in extreme poverty all over the world.

The Blogunteer

You may have heard of organizations such as homeless or women’s shelters that collect the small unused toiletries from hotels to give to their clients.  Today’s organization takes that collection one step further by collecting used soap from hotels.

The mission of the Global Soap Project is to work with their hotel partners to divert used soap from going to the landfill and instead be reprocessed and reused by vulnerable populations around the world.  Their ultimate goal is to impact global health by promoting sanitation and hygiene.

The Global Soap Project is based in Atlanta, Georgia, but soaps are collected from participating hotels across the United States and Canada. 

In a CNN interview last year, Global Soap Project Founder Derreck Kayongo, a native of Uganda, spoke about his first hotel stay in the United States in the early 1990s.  He was surprised to see the soap replaced each day even…

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Announcing NDBN’s First Manual

We are pleased to announce that we have published our first manual,So You Want to Start a Diaper Bank?”  I hope you find it useful.  As always, if you have any questions about how to start a diaper bank, feel free to contact us at info@diaperbanknetwork.org.

In Honor of Food Revolution Day

Tomorrow, May 19, is Food Revolution Day.  The basic premise is to stand up for healthy food and to share information, talents and resources and to highlight the world’s food issues.  Jamie Oliver, formerly known as the Naked Chef, now on a one-man crusade to bring healthy food to school children, is the mobilizing force behind Food Revolution Day.  But as Dr Bill Frist, the former U.S. Senator from Tennessee, notes in this thoughtful article from last February, access to healthy food is often one of the basic necessities not available to children in poverty.  More than 23 million people live in “food deserts”, which the USDA defines as any census district where at least 20 percent of the inhabitants are below the poverty line and 33 percent live over a mile from the nearest supermarket (or in rural areas, more than 10 miles).  As  Scientific America notes, there is a troubling correlation between food deserts and areas of increased incidents of diabetes and obesity. In the richest nation in the world, our children should not be without the basic necessities that will allow them to grow strong and healthy–healthy food, hygiene products like soap and diapers, and sound shelter.

Part of the problem may be that many people do not fully understand poverty in the country.  A recent poll by the Salvation Army found that most Americans do not know the poverty level, and misunderstand their neighbors in need. Surveying just over 1,000 individuals, the results revealed that while the public is sympathetic to the poverty crisis, it at times misunderstands the reasons why so many live in poverty. Indeed, the report found  that the farther removed from poverty a person is, the less common he or she believes poverty is in society.  The report also found that a majority of people believe that assistance to families in need can help set up children for success in escaping poverty, many Americans are unsure of what they can do to help others – and whether or not their assistance will actually help.

The truth is, assistance does help.  As Mark Shriver observes in this article, early intervention and early education programs can improve children’s academic success, lower obesity rates, and improve their indicators for success in life.   And private assistance helps as well.  As illustrated in this  documentary, a gift of something as elemental as diapers can help teenaged parents finish their studies, preparing them for the workforce and a life of economic self-sufficiency.  Donations to food banks can help ensure people receive the food they need to feed their families nutritious meals. And donations to diaper banks can help families ensure that their children are clean and dry.  In honor of Food Revolution Day, embrace the idea that access to basic necessities like good food and clean diapers can make a difference, and donate generously to your local food bank and diaper bank.

A good reminder that the many people struggling to support their children have often suffered a change in circumstances.

WORKING POOR AMERICA

By: Maura Sirianni

The majority of individuals who are raising children alone, start out in committed relationships, and never expected to be single parents.  84% of single parents in America, are women.  Andrea Rose was married for 2 years before she suddenly became a single parent.  “At the time, my son was two and a half years old and my daughter was eighteen months.  My husband worked while I stayed at home with our kids.  We were living off of one paycheck when before I knew it, my husband left.  Suddenly, he was gone and I had no income,” Rose says.

In 2007, a year before Rose’s struggles began, she volunteered her time as a mentor to a single homeless mother, through a program called Bridge of Hope.  As a Bridge of Hope mentor, Rose became a friend and support system for the young mother.

For a year, Rose…

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Diapers: They’re not just for babies

I received a call a few days ago from a woman looking for some source of assistance for her brother who suffered from incontinence and had to wear what are commonly known as adult diapers.  Our posts on this blog have tended to address the diaper need that affects babies and their families; however, many adults, particularly seniors living on limited incomes, suffer from incontinence.  Many of these people have difficulty affording adult incontinence supplies and diapers.  And their lives, and those of their families and loved ones, are adversely affected by the lack of access to incontinence supplies.

Urinary incontinence affects approximately 13 million persons in the United States, with as many as 25 million experiencing transient or ongoing incontinence.  Most of these people are older adults, many of whom may be living on limited incomes with limited buying power once medical expenses are factored in.  In addition, many disabled people are obliged to wear diapers for a variety of reasons, incontinence and inability to use a bathroom unaided among the most common.

Often, people dealing with incontinence problems are among those who have the fewest resources.  According to the Cornell University Online Resource for U.S. Disability Statistics in 2009, an estimated 26.4% percent of the population between 21 and 64 with a disability had incomes below the poverty line.  These numbers only include people with disabilities who are living independently, either alone or with family – not those who are institutionalized and have greater access to care.  According to the U.S. Census Current Population Survey in 2010 9% of adults 65 and older lived below the federal poverty line. However, using the U.S. Census Bureau’s alternative measurement of poverty, as many as 16.1% of U.S. seniors are living in poverty once medical care and other costs of living are factored in.  Elderly Americans spend on average 19% of their total income on out-of-pocket medical expenses annually. Out-of-pocket expenses include health insurance premiums, medical copayments, and prescriptions.  Once those costs are paid, however, many seniors are unable to pay for critical services.

Many insurance programs and Medicare programs will not pay for adult diapers, particularly if the incontinence is not diagnosed as a separate medical condition.  Even when it is identified as a separate condition, some state run Medicare will not pay for diapers even if they pay for other supplies.  (You can find your state’s coverage by using this link and finding Urological supplies.)

It is estimated that by 2015 one in four Americans will be over the age of 65. At a time when communities need to be building infrastructure and planning to care for our increasing aging populations, services are instead being reduced for even the lowest-income seniors.

In “A Report to the Community,” the Community Needs Assessment Process 2006–2009 Area Plan on Aging report, Pima Council on Aging, an Arizona Senior Service Agency, identified as major problem areas for their community “lack of sufficient income to meet basic needs; lack of transportation and affordable health care, including dental care; need for in-home support, including home maintenance and repair; isolation and need for advocacy. The overriding concern of seniors is to find ways in which to continue living in their own homes for as long as possible.”  According to the National Association for Continence, incontinence is the second leading reasons for institutionalization of the elderly in nursing homes and 53% of homebound older persons are incontinent.

Many diaper banks provide incontinence supplies for adults.  The supplies distributed by local diaper banks through their partner organizations are part of a larger continuum of services that not only supports older adults in remaining in their own homes, but also contributes to their dignity and quality of life. If not for a diaper bank’s monthly incontinent supply donations to their partner agencies many local community’s elderly would be unable to leave their homes to due to fear of embarrassment, and would live in compromised comfort even while at home.  Many diaper banks provide monthly incontinent supply donations to their partner agencies because the local community’s disabled would suffer decreased quality of life, ranging from constant discomfort due to accidents to being unable to leave their homes.

Adult incontinent supplies are not donated as often as baby diapers and cost a great deal more.  As a result, diaper banks sometimes have trouble maintaining a reliable supply of adult diapers.   Consider donating to your local diaper bank to help them acquire the incontinence supplies that could make a meaningful improvement in the quality of life for a disabled person or an older person.  If you do not have a diaper bank nearby, consider donating to the National Diaper Bank Network.

Governmental Belt-tightening–Who is Getting Squeezed and at What Cost?

As the economic hangover of the recession continues, states struggle to balance their budgets in the face of declining revenue and the perception (real or imagined) that taxpayers are reluctant to see an increase in their taxes.  Because  this economic stormy weather has long ago depleted the rainy day funds of many states, many states have resorted to cutting services to balance their budget.  Because state governments provide many services to those who do not have the means to satisfy their basic needs on their own, many of these cuts have disproportionately affected the neediest among us.  And after years of such cuts, the impact is quite severe.

In The Nation, Greg Kaufmann discusses the effect of continuous budget cuts to the Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) program.  Kaufmann notes that  Illinois provides TANF benefits—which is cash assistance—to just 13 of every 100 families with children in poverty, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). Prior to welfare reform in 1996 the state helped nearly 87 of every 100 families with children in poverty. Further, the benefit level is only 28 percent of the federal poverty line, or roughly $4,800 annually for a family of three, similar to that in a majority of states.  So as the ranks of people living below the poverty line increase, the state is less able to help keep people above the poverty line.

The New York Times reports that years of budget tightening have caused Texas to cut funding to schools, resulting in cuts to all but the most essential aspects of school–no music classes, reduced bussing and janitorial services–and some of the most essential aspects of school, increasing class sizes as schools reduce the ranks of their teaching faculty.  In an economic future in which workers will need to rely ever more on their knowledge base and education, students will be at a disadvantage as their educational opportunities are stunted in overcrowded classrooms taught by teachers taking on second jobs to make ends meet themselves.

And in another report from The Nation, programs designed to help people secure that most basic of needs–shelter–are woefully underfunded, as county waitlists for Section 8 are flooded with thousands of applications for only a hundred openings.  The federal housing agency’s annual assessment finds that “worst-case housing needs” grew by 42 percent from 2001 to 2009, and nationwide there is a shortfall of nearly 3.5 million housing units for the poorest households.

What is most frustrating to those of us working to ensure that people’s basic needs are met is the growing evidence that governmental austerity is not the solution to the economic crisis, and may only serve to make matters worse.  As Eileen Appelbaum of the Center for Economic and Policy Research notes in US News and World Report, “Cutbacks in government spending at the federal as well as state and local levels are already hurting GDP growth. In the absence of federal revenue sharing with the states–the first time the federal government has not had such a program when unemployment is above 7 percent–state and local government expenditures have fallen for seven consecutive quarters.”

Moreover, the economic insecurity that accompanies governmental belt tightening trickles down to individuals’ belt-tightening, hitting charitable donations.   Researchers in the UK and the Netherlands determined that when people feel less secure about their economic resources, they give less.

This thesis appears to be borne out during the prolonged economic downturn.  In October 2010, the Journal of Philanthropy reported a sharp decline in charitable giving to America’s largest charities–indeed the largest decline since the journal began recording charitable giving.  The next year the picture was a bit brighter; however the slight rise in giving did not erase the devastating effects of the recession, the Journal of Philanthropy reported in October, 2011.

This belt tightening does not appear to improve the economy in the short term.  But it does seem likely to most directly and severely affect the lives of those with the greatest need.   Our national economic hangover will continue that much longer as we deal with the effects of a growing homeless population, whose children’s educational opportunities are stunted, most likely resulting in further extended dependence on public and private aid.  Thus, the need for individuals to step up and help fill the void is all the more important.  Consider making a donation to NDBN today.

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