Lili Sajbin, right, was overjoyed to receive a supply of disposable diapers for her 2-month-old son Lester (in stroller) from Heather Edwards of the Allied Foundation at North Fork Spanish Apostolate Thursday. Photo: Denise Civiletti

“Diaper need” is something most people likely don’t give a second thought — at least not before the current COVID crisis left tens of millions unemployed and scraping to make ends meet.

But diaper need is a real problem — and has been for some time. One in three American families struggle with diaper need, according to the National Diaper Bank Network, a nationwide organization founded in 2011 that works to end diaper need in the United States.

Diaper need is the lack of a sufficient supply of diapers to keep a baby clean, dry and healthy. Infants require up to 12 diapers per day, at a cost of $70 to $80 per month per baby. Government programs—including food stamps and WIC—do not provide funding for diapers. As a result, the poorest 20% of Americans with infants and toddlers spend nearly 14% of their after-tax income on diapers, according to the National Diaper Bank Network.

Most child care providers require parents to provide disposable diapers for their children, said Heather Edwards, executive director of the Allied Foundation, a member of the National Diaper Bank Network. Without diapers, there’s no child care — and without child care, parents can’t go to work, Edwards said.

The Allied Foundation, established by Allied Physicians Group in 2015, is a nonprofit whose mission includes running a diaper bank to help end diaper need across Long Island and in Rockland and Orange counties. Allied collects, purchases and distributes diapers to families in need.

Sandra Villa, left, and Eileen Mattausch of North Fork Spanish Apostolate, with Heather Edwards of the Allied Foundation and Raena Pastore of Peconic Pediatrics and some of the diapers and wipes donated by the foundation to the Riverhead pantry on Thursday. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Allied’s mission brought it to Riverhead last week, during Diaper Need Awareness Week, where the group delivered cases of disposable diapers to the pantry at St. John the Evangelist Church, which is operated by North Fork Spanish Apostolate. Allied will deliver 6,000 to 7,000 diapers to the pantry and his also donating diapers to the Butterfly Effect Project for distribution to the families served by that organization, Edwards said.

In all, Allied plans to deliver about 100,000 disposable diapers in sizes newborn to size 6 — and wipes — to pantries across the East End, including Community Action Southold Town in Greenport and locations on the South Fork. It’s a six-month initiative funded in part with a $10,000 grant from AFTEE (All for the East End), Edwards said.

When Edwards and Raena Pastore, a social worker at Peconic Pediatrics, a member of Allied Physicians Group, delivered cases of diapers to St. John’s pantry Thursday morning, women who happened to be there to pick up food grew excited when they saw the cartons of diapers.

Lili Sajbin of Riverhead was there with her 2-month-old son Lester, a bright-eyed infant with a cherubic face and a mop of thick black hair. Sajbin beamed when it was explained to her that she could have multiple packages of diapers for her son.

Typically, the pantry can’t even give one family an entire package, never mind more than one, said volunteer Eileen Mattausch.

“It breaks my heart to give someone three diapers,” Mattausch said.

“We can’t thank you enough,” Sandra Villa, assistant to the director of North Fork Spanish Apostolate, Sr. Margaret Smyth.

“We’re happy to be here,” Edwards told her.

Pastore said diaper need is a problem frequently seen at Peconic Pediatrics’ Riverhead office. An inadequate supply of diapers forces parents to try to stretch their supply, often re-using diapers they attempt to clean. It results in rashes that can be extremely painful for the babies and can lead to serious infections as well.

She said depression is common among parents who can’t provide clean diapers for their babies.

“We’re trying to do what we can to help families with this,” Pastore said.

Allied Foundation is the only Long Island member of the National Diaper Bank Network.

People can help by donating diapers, becoming a donation collection point, hosting a diaper drive and donating money. The foundation can purchase diapers at a discount. For information, go to the Allied Foundation website.

Editor’s note: This story has been amended post publication to correct an error in the organizations named as recipients of the diaper donations.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.