Essentials for Students
Western Pennsylvania Diaper Bank’s Essentials for Students program enables student parents to focus on their studies while their diaper needs are taken care of. Currently, the program serves Westmoreland County Community College and Community College of Allegheny County by offering students a monthly distribution of diapers for their children.
According to a study done by The World Health Organization, a woman’s capabilities are severely restricted if she is unable to complete secondary education. Increasing education decreases mental health issues and increases one’s ability to provide for themselves and their family. Another study done by California Community Colleges found that for college students, basic needs insecurity is strongly related to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Students who cannot afford adequate food or housing are unlikely to spend time or money on mental health services. This is even more of a reality for community college students, who are already at a higher poverty rate.
With a current enrollment of 2,700 students, the Westmoreland County Community College estimates that 22% of its students live at or below the federal poverty level. In a fall 2022 survey, nearly a third of students reported struggling with food, housing, rent, childcare, and utilities and 45% said they struggled with anxiety. Many of those students are parents seeking education to improve their futures and are unable to hold full-time employment while completing their education. With this knowledge, the Diaper Bank knew that it needed to focus on ways to support student parents and alleviate the stress of providing diapers for their children.
Goals of the College Partnership Programs
Essentials for Students is a collaboration with regional community colleges and supports students in Allegheny, Fayette, Indiana, and Westmoreland counties. The Diaper Bank and Westmoreland County Community College piloted the program with funding from Westmoreland County Community Foundation in January of 2022 with the goals of:
providing diapers, wipes, and other basic needs to some of Westmoreland County’s most vulnerable populations while they further their education and broaden their opportunities for financial security;
creating a needed safety net for parents eager to better their futures;
elevating the concerns of providing the most basic hygiene needs to their babies and decreasing stress, allowing these students to concentrate on their academic and professional goals.
Each student family receiving diapers saves approximately $50 a month per child to spend on other bills and living necessities. Student clients have shared that they spend the money they save from not having to purchase diapers on food, utilities, and rising gasoline costs.
In addition to the survey done by the college, Western PA Diaper Bank staff interviewed a number of student parents in the program. When asked about what they felt was most beneficial about the program, student parents shared a common theme of hope and self-sustainability, which helped them focus on school and worry less. Of those students who completed a survey, 57% reported that receiving diapers improved their mental health and 76% shared that the program met their family’s diaper needs entirely.
Is your campus interested in becoming one of our college partners?
I am so thankful for this partnership. While in nursing school, these distributions have helped my husband and I no longer worry about if we are going to be able to afford diapers.