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How to Help Parents Who Are Struggling to Provide for Their Kids

Recent disasters — parts of the country are being swallowed by flames or flooded by hurricanes — only intensify the need for help.

You may be wondering how best to give to families in need. Here are some ideas.

“You’re not seeing the stories about the lines of cars at the food bank as much as you did months before, but they’re still there,” said Zuani Villarreal, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit Feeding America. Many of them include families who “are turning to a food bank for the first time.”

Over the summer there was a 60 percent average increase in demand for food assistance at Feeding America’s network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries across the country compared to the same time period last year, Villarreal said.

The best way to help right now is to either volunteer (if your local bank allows for this and you feel safe doing so) or to donate money, she added.

While food donations are appreciated, they are labor-intensive because every offering must be sorted and inspected. Right now there are volunteer shortages because many of the people who would ordinarily donate their time — especially the older adults — are staying home to avoid the coronavirus. Check with your local food bank to see how best to help. You can use Feeding America’s website to search for a food bank near you.

There are a number of other worthy nonprofits that need help. Save the Children is delivering meals to kids during the pandemic. Blessings in a Backpack helps provide food on the weekends for elementary school children across America who might otherwise not have enough to eat. World Central Kitchen purchases meals from local restaurants and delivers them to people who need them. And No Kid Hungry says it has sent nearly $27 million in emergency relief to hundreds of schools and community groups in the United States.

GiveDirectly, which partnered with Propel, a company that uses technology to help recipients of SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that was once commonly known as food stamps) manage their benefits, gives cash to people chosen at random, like a lottery. The recipients must receive SNAP benefits and also use Fresh EBT, a food stamp balance smartphone app.

Diaper banks have seen a sharp increase in demand from the people they serve.

At the start of the pandemic, Hope Supply Co. in Dallas, the largest children’s diaper bank in Texas, had a 300 percent increase in requests from their partner agencies compared to the same time period last year, said Barbara Johnson, chief executive of Hope Supply Co. Those agencies include homeless shelters and domestic violence shelters.

Diaper banks appreciate any donation, but especially sizes 3 through 6 and pull-ups. “Those are the diapers that the diaper banks almost always are short on,” said Audrey Symes, a volunteer advocate with the National Diaper Bank Network.

Larger sizes are always in greater demand because children stay in them longer, unlike infants who quickly grow out of the smallest sizes.

That can be especially true of children who have endured hardships.

“Children who experience trauma or chaos potty train later than children who have stability,” Johnson said.

In addition, older children who have experienced trauma can regress and start having accidents even if they have already been potty trained.

Several diaper bank programs are holding community diaper drives and other fund-raising events in September to celebrate National Diaper Need Awareness Week, which starts on Sept. 21.

Bundles of Hope Diaper Bank in Birmingham, Ala., for example, aims to collect more than 350,000 diapers during its Stuff the Bus diaper drive.

If you prefer to donate money, some of the larger banks can stretch those funds even further than the average person could at a store because the diaper banks get special deals for buying in bulk.

Donations can be made on the National Diaper Bank Network website or to their individual member banks.

Several more reputable organizations are helping families in need.

Catholic Charities U.S.A. has distributed hundreds of millions in emergency aid for food, assistance in paying rent, personal protective equipment, baby supplies and emergency quarantine housing. And The Salvation Army has been providing shelter to the homeless, offering rent and mortgage payment assistance and distributing millions of meals via food pantries and meal programs.

The website Modest Needs posts requests for help on its website where donors can contribute to specific individuals who need help paying various bills like rent, utilities and car payments.

GoFundMe.org has created a Covid-19 Relief Fund, which raised nearly $370,000 by mid-September to help those who have either been affected by the coronavirus or who are helping others. The crowdfunding site said the fund has provided money to a wide array of people, including those gathering personal protective equipment for essential workers and people struggling to make rent payments.

The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund has a Covid-19 Relief Campaign. All proceeds will go to four nonprofits: Feeding America, First Book, The New York Community Trust and World Central Kitchen.

If you’d like to contribute financially to a charitable organization, it’s often helpful to do a little homework first to learn more about how the nonprofit spends its money. The organization’s website and social media feeds are good places to start.

You can also research nonprofits on the charity watchdog websites Charity Navigator, GiveWell or GuideStar.

Charity Navigator and the Federal Trade Commission offer tips on how to protect yourself and avoid fraudsters. And the Internal Revenue Service has search tools that can help you find organizations that are eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions.

Finally, check to see if your employer has a corporate giving program. Companies with this type of a program will typically match donations made by employees to a list of eligible, vetted nonprofit organizations, increasing the amount of money the nonprofit receives.

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