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Quality of Life

Time's ticking for San Diego Diaper Bank Program

Time is running out for a state program that provides diapers for low-income families. KPBS North County reporter Alexander Nguyen says funding for the diaper bank in San Diego county is at risk because of the state’s budget shortfall.

Time is ticking for a state program that funds the Diaper Bank for low-income families, including in San Diego County.

The three-year, $30 million program is set to expire in June, and with the projected state budget shortfall, Gov. Gavin Newsom's office said it was not set for renewal. San Diego Food Bank receives $3.7 million of that money for its Diaper Bank program.

For Leonor Alfaro, it's a lifeline for her growing family. Her husband is the only one in the family working right now, and without the Diaper Bank, she said it would be a financial hardship to get diapers for her twin girls, Talita and Tania.


"Because there are two of them. And if I struggle for diapers right now — sometimes I run out and sometimes I have to buy them," Alfaro said in Spanish. "And on the days when I can come here, they help me with the diapers."

According to the National Institutes of Health, the average cost of a month's diaper supply in 2022 (when the study was conducted) was $100. The study notes that for the poorest 20% of U.S. families, that represents 14% of their income.

Alfaro gets the diapers at the San Diego Food Bank's Vista warehouse, which is also the distribution hub for more than 100 other organizations that deliver diapers to low-income families.

Vanessa Ocegueda was one of the parents who benefited from the program. She received diapers through Miracle Babies, one of the Diaper Bank’s partners. Ocegueda said with premature triplets and a toddler under 2 years old at the time, not having to worry about diapers was a huge stress reliever.

“I wasn't working at the time because COVID had just hit," she said. "And also, I had the triplets, so I needed to take more time off than normal. So, I mean, it was a huge blessing to our family.”

A San Diego Food Bank worker stocking diapers for the Diaper Bank, March 15, 2024.
Carolyne Corelis
A San Diego Food Bank worker stocking diapers for the Diaper Bank, March 15, 2024.

The Diaper Bank program started in 2017 and has distributed more than 34.5 million diapers to families in San Diego County since then. Last year, the San Diego Food Bank distributed more than 9 million diapers.

The program was renewed for three years in 2021. The funding expires June 30, the end of the state's fiscal year.

Without the diapers program, for some families, it becomes the choice between diapers or food, San Diego Food Bank CEO Casey Castillo said. And that could cause health issues for the children.

“Families, when they're struggling with basic needs — putting food on the table or purchasing diapers for their children or infants — will ration those diapers, keep them on longer than they should be on, which causes rashes and other health issues,” Castillo said.

He said nearly half of San Diego's families struggle to buy diapers. The Food Bank is working with local state representatives to get more funding for the program.

The struggle to buy diapers also presents a problem for the working poor. Day care centers require parents to provide at least 10 diapers each day for their children and often don't accept children if diapers are not provided.

Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber (D-80), who has authored bills to expand access to maternal and infant care, said she hopes the program can be renewed during budget negotiations.

The child care industry has long been in crisis, and COVID-19 only made things worse. Now affordable, quality care is even more challenging to find, and staff are not paid enough to stay in the field. This series spotlights people each struggling with their own childcare issues, and the providers struggling to get by.