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ASI Children’s Center distributes free diapers to student-parents, Sacramento County families

Gabby McCartney, who attends Sac State full time, and her 2-year-old daughter, Emilia, were among the first to visit the ASI Children's Center to take advantage of a new partnership that allows student-parents and Sacramento County residents with young children to receive 50 free diapers each month. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)
Parents and their children visit the Sacramento State ASI Children's Center, which partners with the Sacramento Food Bank to distribute free diapers.
Sac State's ASI Children's Center distributed 1,800 diapers within the first few days of the Sept. 2 launch of a new program in partnership with the Sacramento Food Bank that allows student-parents and Sacramento County residents with young children to receive 50 free diapers each month. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

Working mom and full-time Sacramento State student Gabby McCartney doesn’t have the luxury of buying just any diapers for her 2-year-old daughter, Emilia.

“I have looked at different brands and the quantity of diapers you get for the price,” McCartney, 23, said. “I found one that was cheaper, and I like to get them from Costco because it’s about $50 for 160, and that lasts almost half a month.

“I spend about $100 a month on diapers.”

With the rising price of food, gas and other essentials, there isn’t a lot of wiggle room in McCartney’s budget – and she’s not alone.

To help McCartney and other Sacramento County families struggling with the region’s high cost of living, the Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) Children’s Center is giving away free diapers.

The center has partnered with the Sacramento Food Bank to become a federally funded National Diaper Distribution site.

Anyone in Sacramento County with young children can obtain from the center 50 free diapers a month, sizes 3 through 5.

“People are struggling because of inflation and have to make some very serious choices between feeding their children or taking care of their diapering needs,” said Sherry Velte, ASI Children’s Center director. “So, children can be left in diapers too long, which causes diaper rash.

“It’s a health concern for children. It can be very severe when children’s bottoms are bleeding and have wounds and sores.”

Within days of launching on Sept. 2, the Children’s Center distributed more than 1,800 diapers, Velte said.

The numbers don’t lie, said Lorena Carranza, the Sacramento Food Bank’s community resource manager. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the number of families the Sacramento Food Bank served doubled from 150,000 a month to more than 300,000, she said.

As the world began to recover last year, the lines at the food bank diminished slightly, only to grow again about four months ago.

“It’s because of inflation,” Carranza said. “It’s really hitting families hard, so we are right now at 250,000 families a month.

“The cost of living is very high here in Sacramento, and we see it in all the demographic groups. There are a lot of families with little ones. You have to change diapers, there’s no way around it. Babies don’t wait.”

The Sacramento Food Bank became a national diaper distribution site in July 2021, and works with six other organizations in Sacramento County to provide diapers.

"This extra help takes off a little more weight from parents who are working and going to school and trying to find ways to pay for all those essentials." -- Gabby McCartney, Sacramento State student, mom

The Sacramento Food Bank also partners with Sac State to provide food for the ASI Food Pantry, and knowing college students’ needs makes the collaboration “a perfect fit,” Carranza said.

In addition to special trainings, Velte had to determine how to transport the large boxes of diapers and find a clean, dry place to store them.

“It’s not what we’re designed to do. We’re a child care facility,” she said. “But we’re providing diapers to the campus and the community because I know this will be a tremendous service to my student-parents, who are primarily on financial aid.”

McCartney picked up diapers on the first day.

“It will help out tremendously,” McCartney said. “Prices for everything have been extremely high, and children go through so many diapers. I’m constantly having to buy them.”

McCartney, who commutes to campus from Elk Grove, said free diapers mean she’ll worry less if there’s another spike in the cost of gas or food.

“There are families from all different backgrounds, and everybody has their own struggles,” McCartney said. “This extra help takes off a little more weight from parents who are working and going to school and trying to find ways to pay for all those essentials.

“The ASI Children’s Center is an amazing program, and I’m very grateful I’m able to get diapers from here now.”

The ASI Diaper Distribution program is open to everyone in Sacramento County with young children. For more information, contact the Children’s Center by email or by phone at 916-278-6216.

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About Jennifer K. Morita

Jennifer K. Morita joined Sacramento State in 2022. A former newspaper reporter for the Sacramento Bee, she spent several years juggling freelance writing with being a mom. When she isn’t chauffeuring her two daughters, she enjoys reading mysteries, experimenting with recipes, and Zumba.

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