Skip to content
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore.

Apr 21, 2022

Joanne Goldblum: Solving Diaper Need For Two Decades

Heidi Stevens

When Joanne Goldblum was working as a community-based social worker in Connecticut, she would often meet mothers who were forced to reuse disposable diapers — emptying solids into the toilet, laying wet diapers out to dry and then placing them back on their babies.It was gut-wrenching for the mothers, unhealthy for the babies, and illustrated a gaping hole that exists to this day in our nation’s social safety net.

Diapers aren’t covered under most federal aid programs, meaning families can’t use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Women, Infants and Children (WIC) benefits to offset their cost. And many daycare providers require the use of disposable diapers, rendering reusable, cloth diapers a no-go.

‘We were setting families up not to succeed.’

“I saw we were really just failing people,” Goldblum said. “We were setting families up not to succeed.”

With the help of her husband and her mother, Goldblum began collecting diapers and distributing them out of her home. The depth of diaper need in her community led her to establish the New Haven Diaper Bank in 2004 (now the Diaper Bank of Connecticut) and, seven years later, the National Diaper Bank Network, which connects and supports more than 240 diaper bank programs across the United States. Goldblum serves as the executive director.

The pandemic increased diaper need “exponentially,” Goldblum said. 

“On average, diaper banks have increased distribution by 86%,” she said, “And many have increased even more than that. Diaper banks have seen a huge increase among people who had never before been to one.”

Goldblum co-authored a peer-reviewed study in 2013, published in Pediatrics, that found diaper need was more associated with maternal stress and depression than any other type of need, including food.

“Diapering your baby is the most basic thing you do as a parent or guardian,” Goldblum said. “There’s a visceral reaction for a parent or anybody taking care of a child when they can’t keep their baby clean and dry.”

Federal legislation can and should address diaper need, Goldblum said. But it shouldn’t arrive in the form of SNAP or WIC benefits, which barely cover a family’s nutritional needs as is, she noted.

“We have deep concern that SNAP would be opened up but more money wouldn’t be added to the program,” Goldblum said. 

The National Diaper Bank Network website provides information about the End Diaper Need Act, a bill introduced by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (California) and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (Connecticut) that would create a $100 million program for distributing free diapers.

The National Diaper Bank Network site also provides guidance for individuals and groups who want to host a diaper drive, volunteer at a diaper bank or start a diaper bank in their community.  “I don’t see that any person deserves to have their basic needs met more than any other person,” Goldblum said.


You can help create change on behalf of all parents and children in the way that works best for you. Join Parent Nation today.