White House uses bully pulpit to help poor with diapers

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The White House is touting a new initiative to provide baby diapers to low-income families as the kind of private-sector engagement President Obama will call for during his appearance at South by Southwest (SXSW) on Friday. 

The Community Diaper Program unveiled Thursday is a plan spurred by the White House that will allow non-profit groups to purchase diapers at discounted prices so they can provide more of them to low-income families. 

The White House leveraged the bully pulpit to pair the e-commerce company Jet and traditional diaper manufacturer, First Quality. Jet will help provide storage space and its shopping platform, while First Quality has agreed to design smaller, no-frills packaging. 

Most simply, the plan is meant to give non-profit organizations the savings that comes from bulk buying and extra storage space. For example, the homeless shelter Covenant House will be able to double the number of diapers it can order and will speed up shipping, according to the White House. 

The plan was hatched after White House staffers looked at research that showed poor families were paying much more than the average family to buy diapers — mostly because they could not afford to buy in bulk or make purchases online. 

"To address this issue, the President’s budget calls for a $10 million investment to test effective ways to get diapers to families in need, and document the health gains that result," the White House wrote in a blog post. "But we can’t wait on Congress to act, so the White House called on private and non-profit leaders to explore creative ways they can address this widespread public health problem."

A number of other companies, such as Huggies and The Honest Company, have also vowed to donate to the cause. 

The post was written by White House special assistant Luke Tate and Josh Miller, the director of product management. Miller, a former Facebook executive, has previously leveraged the White House to help tech firms aid in the Syrian refugee crisis

Obama is slated to speak Friday at the SXSW conference, which brings together many in the technology industry. He will use the occassion to talk about civic engagement and technology.

"All of us can answer the President’s call, and the private sector is often best-suited to solve civic problems with out-of-the-box solutions," the White House staffers wrote in the blog post, titled "Surge pricing for diapers."