Just in time for Giving Tuesday, the UWM Food Pantry has added to its ability to help students who are struggling financially.
Thanks to a partnership with the Milwaukee Diaper Mission, the pantry will be able to offer access to free diapers to students who are parents.
UWM has more than 1,300 student parents on campus, and this fills a need for those struggling to make ends meet while attending school, said Rachel Kubczak, director of the university’s Student Parent Success Program. Especially during the pandemic, the need for diapers became apparent.
“We were overwhelmed with how many students were requesting diapers,” Kubczak said.
Advisory board members of the food pantry, which is free to students, have been discussing ways to fill that need, Kubczak said. The result was the partnership with the Milwaukee Diaper Mission.
‘Really important to support parents’
Kubczak and Allie Dorshorst, basic needs coordinator in the Dean of Students office, drove out to the organization’s headquarters in Franklin on Tuesday, Nov. 29, to pick up the first load of diapers. The UWM food pantry had been on the waiting list of service agencies that distribute the diapers and period products.
“We think it is really important to support parents who are attending college,” said Meagan Johnson, executive director and co-founder of the Milwaukee Diaper Mission. “The food pantry at UWM sees a lot of traffic.”
The Milwaukee Diaper Mission, founded two years ago in Johnson’s garage, works to help the one in three U.S. families who have challenges affording diapers. The nonprofit organization, which offers both disposable and cloth diapers as well as baby wipes and period products, moved from an 800-square-foot office to its current 5,000-square-foot warehouse in Franklin in January 2022. Since opening in September 2020, the organization has distributed more than 563,000 disposable diapers and 178,000 period products, according to its website.
Not included in aid programs
Since such products are not covered by federally funded food programs like SNAP, they can be an added and challenging expense for families, Kubczak said. “Unfortunately, that’s been kind of forgotten, and families have had to choose between food and diapers,” Johnson said.
The Milwaukee Diaper Mission relies on donations from the community and corporate sponsors. Kimberly-Clark, the maker of Huggies, donated a quarter million diapers for 2022. Donation drives also collect diapers and raise money.
Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo and domestic partner Mariah Riddlesprigger, who were looking for a way to give back to families in Milwaukee, held a diaper drive to celebrate the birth of their second child a year ago, and recently held a second drive with the Milwaukee Diaper Mission. Riddlesprigger also serves on the organization’s board of directors. Volunteers work at the warehouse to package the products for the agencies receiving them.
“We are just grateful to Meagan and the Milwaukee Diaper Mission for the help they are giving us,” Kubczak said.