San Francisco Announces Free Diapers For Families In Need

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Nation’s first publicly funded diaper bank expands to nutrition safety net program, doubling the number of free diapers available to City babies

SAN FRANCISCO – San Francisco is now the first county in the nation to provide free diapers as a supplementary benefit for families who receive CalFresh food assistance, known at the federal level as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The announcement comes from the San Francisco Diaper Bank, a partnership between the Human Services Agency (HSA) and Help a Mother Out (HAMO), that provides a free monthly supply of diapers to residents with children under age three who participate in CalWORKs and, starting in November, CalFresh.

Diaper need, known as the lack of sufficient diapers to keep infants and young children dry, comfortable, and healthy, is a common, distressing, and often hidden issue for low-income parents. Nationally, one in three families struggles with diaper need. 

San Francisco Announces Free Diapers For Families In Need

The average monthly diaper bill for a child under age three can range from $80–100 per month. Yet, for the most part, social safety net programs for families do not recognize diapers as a necessity. The cost of diapers is not an allowable expense under federal programs that provide food assistance to young children like SNAP or Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

“We must ensure every child in California is off to a great start. From health problems to being shut out of childcare programs, having little or no access to clean diapers can be hard on families and impact the outcome of a child’s life,” said Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee. “As a father, I know firsthand the reach the Diaper Bank will now have as a result of the increase in state funding.”

California is a leader in pursuing policy strategies to reduce diaper need. The Diaper Bank expansion to CalFresh households in San Francisco is made possible by a $2.5 million grant awarded to HAMO in support of diaper access programs in the Bay Area by the California Department of Social Services. The program expansion doubles eligibility to 2,500 San Francisco children whose families currently receive CalWORKs or CalFresh benefits for cash, employment, or food assistance from HSA.

In 2015, HSA and nonprofit partner HAMO established the first publicly funded diaper bank in the United States to improve access to diapers. The Diaper Bank has distributed more than three million diapers to San Francisco families. An annual retail value of $500,000 in diaper supplies is projected for distribution to CalWORKs and CalFresh participants.

“We began to notice convenience stores in certain communities breaking down diaper boxes and marking them up for individual sale. This is a real eye-opening example of people trying to manage the high cost of diaper packages. No one should profit from hard-working families trying to keep up with day-to-day expenses,” said Trent Rhorer, Executive Director of the San Francisco Human Services Agency. “Expanding the Diaper Bank frees up more money in household budgets to put food on the table, pay for housing, and other essentials.”

“Choosing between a clean diaper for your baby and rent, food, or transportation is a choice no parent should have to make, yet it’s a choice many in our community face daily,” said Lisa Truong, Founder and Executive Director of Help a Mother Out. “We believe diapers should be part of the social safety net, and the San Francisco Diaper Bank is an important step in that direction.”

CalFresh monthly benefits in San Francisco start at $16, with a household of four receiving about $425 in food assistance. Families that qualify for the lower range of assistance can still benefit from free monthly diaper supplies, a value of about $80 per month for each child under age three.

More than 4,000 children in San Francisco live in households that have an annual income below the California Poverty Measure. These households are among those most at risk of diaper need. Families with young children are encouraged to apply for CalWORKs and CalFresh to take advantage of diaper benefits and other vital support services.

“It costs like $25 for one box of diapers. I remember the time when I had to decide between buying milk and buying diapers. No parent should have to go through that. You have no idea what this program has meant for me,” said San Francisco Diaper Bank participant Hanen Bouzidi.

Families who receive CalWORKs and CalFresh in San Francisco can visit one of nine community pick up locations to request free diapers. Program participants are required to show their EBT card and a valid government issued ID card. Participation in the Diaper Bank will not reduce monthly benefit amounts for food and cash assistance. For questions, call: CalWORKs (415) 557-5100 or CalFresh (415) 558-4700.

San Francisco Diaper Bank distribution sites include HSA service centers, the Bayview Hunters Point YMCA, Children’s Council of San Francisco, Compass Connecting Point, OMI Family Resource Center, and Visitation Valley Strong Families. 

For more information, visit: www.sfdiaperbank.org

To apply for CalWORKs or CalFresh, visit www.sfhsa.org