Kristen Grode began collecting diapers two years ago to distribute to low-income parents in Minnesota, never imagining she was part of an emerging national trend.

Grode's nonprofit, the Diaper Drive, was one of about a dozen such nonprofits in the nation. It was part of a fledgling movement based on the belief that diapers -- along with food and shelter -- are among the basic needs of infants and toddlers.

Since then, nearly every state has created a diaper bank, Grode said. A National Diaper Bank Network was begun to coordinate and encourage donations. And the first "Diaper Need Awareness Week" is slated for Sept. 10-17.

"It's been exciting to see this go from under the radar to a buzz across the country," said Grode, a mother of two from Blaine.

The diaper awareness week, which was declared -- naturally -- by the Diaper Bank Network, will start with the inaugural Diaper Bank Conference in Washington, D.C. Forty diaper bank leaders from across the country will gather to learn the most effective ways to solicit and stretch their donations.

"We're all learning together," said Grode.

Huggies diapers is the corporate sponsor of the event. It has been a leading donor of diapers for the network. Last year, Minnesota received 200,000 diapers from the manufacturer.

Grode's drive distributed 260,000 diapers, a record number, last year through a network of 35 food shelves and charities in Minnesota.

Diapers cost an average of $18 a week, or $936 a year, Grode said. That figure can be higher or lower, depending on the child's age. Plus, many parents have more than one child in diapers, she said.

About 5.7 million infants and toddlers live in families that may struggle to keep them in clean diapers, the network estimates.

Minnesotans can get involved by donating diapers or money to the diaper drive at or holding their own diaper collection, Grode said.

Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511