Through a Partnership with the Diaper Bank of North Carolina, PORCH Now Distributes Period Products to Local Families
If a family is struggling to put food on the table, then they are struggling with other essentials: cleaning supplies, hygiene products, household items, medical bills, utility expenses, rent payments, and more.
For that reason, PORCH partners with fellow nonprofits like the Diaper Bank of North Carolina to provide more than food. Since 2022, the Diaper Bank – the largest in the United States – has offered 300 period packets (called flow kits) to our Food for Families participants each month. A flow kit contains 10 pads and 10 liners. These products cannot be purchased through government programs such as WIC and SNAP but are medically necessary. As the Diaper Bank’s website says: “We believe that dignity is not a privilege.”
“PORCH is so grateful for our partnership with the Diaper Bank,” says Program Manager Kate Ross. “With the rising cost of almost everything these days, being able to provide families with these important hygiene products in addition to our fresh food program helps them be able to use their hard-earned money on other important things they need for their family.”
Michelle Old, CEO and founder, started the Diaper Bank in Durham in 2013 to provide diapers and wipes to parents of young children. Today, the Diaper Bank distributes 7.5 million diapers a year, with four warehouses across the state.
In 2015, she learned about students missing school when they have their period. “This was something that just wasn’t talked about,” she says. “We feel very strongly that period supplies are school supplies. No one should have to decide between going to school and having their period.”
The Diaper Bank now provides 1.5 million period products per year – mostly through North Carolina’s public schools.
Old says that while she is happy that more conversations are being had around this topic, as a society, we still have a long way to go. Often, when community groups supply diapers to the Diaper Bank, they decline to collect pads and liners due to social stigmas. “A few years ago, I could not get anyone to give me a grant for period products,” Old says. “Now I can. We are better at telling the story and talking about the need. … How is it possible that individuals in America cannot afford a pad, a diaper, cleaning supplies, toilet paper?”
Because period products fall under a luxury tax in our state, North Carolinians pay an extra $5 million to $8 million at the cash register each year.
Additionally, the Diaper Bank’s research reveals that in communities that are considered food deserts, residents pay more. Old pointed to one example of a small corner store charging $1.49 per diaper – with no period products on the shelves at all. “When you have access to a Walmart, a Target – you’re paying 80 bucks a month for diapers. But a lot of families we serve are shopping at corner store, and it’s easily $100 to $150 a month.”
“There is a lot of talk about food insecurity,” Old says. “It’s also important to know, if someone can’t afford food, they cannot afford to purchase these items at all. We need to have more conversations about the lack of access to basic essentials.”
The Diaper Bank also collects and distributes adult incontinence products, which can cost seniors on a fixed income more than $100 per month.
Since the pandemic, the Diaper Bank has seen a 400% increase in diaper requests, an 800% increase in period product requests, and a 2,000% increase in incontinence product requests.
How can PORCH supporters help Old’s organization and her mission? “It’s really about awareness,” she says. “Awareness that when families are struggling for food, they are struggling for these items. Students are missing school. Families are struggling to get the most basic essentials. Seventy-six percent of the clients that receive our services are working one to three jobs – and still cannot afford hygiene items. Once people become aware, then they become active in the cause.”
The Diaper Bank utilizes 600 volunteers per month. Learn more at ncdiaperbank.org.