Diapers are the latest pandemic shortage

Written By: Alyssa Lukpat © 2021 The New York Times Company The New York Times
Washington Updated: Oct 05, 2021, 12:06 AM(IST)

(Representative image) Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The pandemic has upended global supply chains and created a run on many products, including diapers. Kimberly-Clark and Procter & Gamble, two of the country’s largest diaper manufacturers, increased the prices of baby products this year. A typical package of 100 diapers costs $30 to $50 from most online retailers.

"Anyone recognise him?" the police in Winter Haven, Florida, asked on Facebook last month.

Photos with the post showed a man walking out of a Walmart without paying for his items after several of his credit cards were declined, police said. Among the items in his cart were boxes of diapers.

"When your card is declined and you try another one with the same result, that is NOT licence to just walk out with the items anyway," read the Facebook post, which was later deleted.

The Winter Haven Police Department drew swift criticism for the post from people wondering why the department had gone after a man who had stolen basic necessities for his children, also pictured in the surveillance photos.

"That’s a good father in a hard spot," one Facebook user said in response to the department’s follow-up post. "Have some empathy."

After the incident, which was previously reported by WFTS-TV in Tampa, Florida, the store asked the police not to prosecute the man, according to a waiver of prosecution the Winter Haven Police Department provided to The New York Times. Walmart and the man did not respond to requests for comment.

It’s possible the man was among the 1 in 3 American families who struggle with diaper need, according to a February 2020 report by the National Diaper Bank Network, an organization that provides diapers to children. Joanne Samuel Goldblum, the network’s founder and CEO, said she suspects that figure probably rose during the coronavirus pandemic as diaper prices increased and supply plummeted.

"Diaper need is a topic that’s so swept under the rug," she said Friday. "COVID really laid it bare for us."

The pandemic has upended global supply chains and created a run on many products, including diapers. Kimberly-Clark and Procter & Gamble, two of the country’s largest diaper manufacturers, increased the prices of baby products this year. A typical package of 100 diapers costs $30 to $50 from most online retailers.

Diaper banks across the country have reported recent surges in families who couldn’t afford diapers. WestSide Baby, which is based in Seattle, distributed 2.4 million diapers last year, up 60% from 1.5 million in 2019, according to Sarah Cody Roth, the organization’s executive director. WestSide Baby is on track this year to meet or exceed last year’s total, she said.

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