When people think of the Storehouse, they usually think of the food pantry providing food to working-age adults. That is not a wrong assumption. The pantry does support a lot of people ages 18-65 who are struggling to make ends meet. However, the Storehouse serves a surprising number of children and babies. Children make up approximately a quarter of our clients. That need continues to grow, especially for families with infants and toddlers. In fact, as baby expenses rise, more and more young families are turning to the Storehouse for baby food, formula, and diapers.

baby boy in striped shirt visits the Storehouse food pantry in the arms of his mother.
Babies and young families are common at the Storehouse, especially as expenses for baby food, formula, and diapers have continued to rise.

Expenses for Babies are Pushing Many Families into Debt

Having a baby in our country right now is costly. In fact, NPR news says about 12% of the 100 million U.S. adults with healthcare debt attribute at least some of it to pregnancy or childbirth. Even for families who have health insurance, having a baby is expensive. On average, insured parents face $3000 in medical bills from childbirth, according to researchers at the University of Michigan. The situation is even more dire if the newborn needs extra care, such as a neonatal ICU. For 1 in 11 of these families, medical bills related to pregnancy and childbirth exceed $10,000. Medical bills are just the beginning.

Baby Food & Daycare Expenses Have Risen

Obviously, baby needs go well beyond the costs of prenatal care and giving birth. While groceries overall have risen, formula and baby food have outpaced general groceries for price increases. Between March 2020 and December 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index showed a 6.7% increase in the cost of baby food. In the last year, that increase has risen even more. The report released in January 2024 shows that between January 2023 and 2024, the cost of baby food and formula increased by 8.7%. 

Although baby food and formula have seen the highest increases, other baby products have also risen in cost. In 2019, the average price for a package of disposable diapers was $16.54. In 2023, the average price was $21.90. The National Diaper Bank Network, a nonprofit that helps collect and give out free diapers to people in need, reports that 47% of American families are struggling to afford diapers.

Baby Expenses Mean Budget Changes for Families

Having a baby changes the overall budget for a family as these expenses pile up. As a result, families are making trade-offs and difficult decisions. Parents are more likely to report they’ve had to take on extra work, change their living situation, or make other sacrifices like skipping meals themselves to make sure their babies and toddlers are fed. Nationwide polls suggest millions of these families end up in debt, with sometimes devastating consequences. About three-quarters of U.S. adults with debt related to pregnancy or childbirth have cut spending on food, clothing, or other essentials.

Baby boxes are tracked at the Storehouse to make sure we meet the needs of our smallest pantry clients. These distributions have steadily increased the last 4 years.

The Storehouse is Helping Cover Baby Needs More Than Ever

The Storehouse food pantry has offered of baby food, formula, and diapers for many years. These efforts are in addition to the other food provided for families through the pantry. The Storehouse began tracking these efforts specifically in 2020 to better determine the needs of our smallest pantry visitors. The number of baby food items distributed have risen steadily from just 271 in 2020 to 1508 in 2023. Tracking since January of this year, 840 “baby boxes” have been given away through May in 2024. That means the Storehouse is on track to exceed 2000 this calendar year.

How the Public Can Help Local Families Cover Baby Expenses

Members of the public are invited to help cover these rising baby expenses in several ways through the Storehouse. First, donating baby food and formula is appreciated. Diapers are also needed, especially sizes 4 and higher, for our visiting toddlers. Second, organizations are invited to host baby food drives to meet these needs. Message us at info@StorehouseNM.org if you’d like a bin or two for your sites to get started. Finally, our spring fundraising campaign is focused on helping address this issue. Your financial gifts help the Storehouse purchase whatever we are running low on, including specific baby items. Gifts of any size are appreciated to support our tiny pantry guests. Help families flourish today!