The high cost of being broke: Diapers

(Steve Teare for Broke In Philly/WHYY)

(Steve Teare for Broke In Philly/WHYY)

For single mom Sheri Milton, getting basic necessities for her three children, a four year-old son and one-year-old twin daughters, can be a challenge.

Milton said she easily paid about $90 a month just on diapers. She mentioned trying to cut corners by buying in bulk or bigger quantities at big stores, like Walmart. However, she struggled to afford buying a month’s supply all at once.

According to the National Diaper Bank Network, one in three American families struggle with buying diapers. More than 5 million children 3 years old and younger in the U.S. live in low-income families. Diapers are also not covered by food stamps.

The price of diapers is only going up. P&G just announced this week that the company will be raising prices for Pampers and other household items.

According to Megan Cubano, director of community engagement at Homefront in Mercer County, New Jersey, the average child will go through about 240 diapers a month. That expense can range anywhere from $70 to $150.

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Homefront is a social services organization that helps people get back on their feet after being homeless or being at-risk for homelessness. To help with this chronic problem, the organization opened the Diaper Resource Center in Mercer County back in June. A parent who is a Homefront client can get 50 free diapers per child per month and Milton is one of the young mothers who rely on the center.

Milton was a stay at home mom in Trenton while her fiance worked. One night in November, after her partner came home from work, he was making something to eat on the stove. Milton thinks he fell asleep and then had an asthma attack after working a long shift. A fire broke out leaving her partner dead and her home burned down.

“I lost everything in a half an hour,” Milton said. “I had a house, a family, a fiance. I lost all of that in 30 minutes.”

Milton is still getting some assistance from Homefront. She’s getting back on her feet, but obviously, diapers are not the only expense she is worried about.

Cubano explained that low-income single mothers have to make huge decisions based on money leftover after paying the rent.

“If you make 11 bucks an hour, which is a little above minimum wage [in New Jersey], you bring home about a little over $1,400 a month,” Cubana said. “Fair market value for a two-bedroom apartment is over $1,300. So at the end of the month, you have $100 to extend to all of your other bills, basic needs like food, clothing, household items, etc.”

Milton has her own apartment now and is looking to go back to school at Misericordia University in northeast Pennsylvania. She wants to eventually go back to school and help other women like her.

WHYY is one of 19 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly

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