It has been over a year since the pandemic changed our lives. At about this time last year, most of us were locked down, trying to adjust to a new normal. The entire world rushed to stock up on essentials, preparing for an unknown period of uncertainty. We wiped our groceries, sanitized our homes, car/bus seats, clothes, and washed our hands extensively in between. We did everything we could to keep germs away. The shortage of hygiene items was apparent everywhere due to the pandemic. Basics such as toilet paper and hand soap were in shortage, even in large chain-stores. Many had to settle for less than optimal products, pay more due to high demand, or manage with a very small quantity. The fact that COVID-19 is highly contagious, and especially in poor hygiene environments, made these personal and home care items high in demand for underserved communities. And even though supplies are now back up and we are making strides with vaccinating our people, the reality is that hygiene items, cleaning supplies and toiletries are still very much needed and can be quite costly, especially for low-income families who are struggling so badly still.
This month’s Inside-In-Kind will help you think through your next hygiene drive.
Decision 1: What is the context?
Before planning a hygiene drive, consider the context in which you are operating. A drive supporting the homeless on the streets will be different from one for an emergency shelter, and again will vary if supporting families in transitional housing.
Alternatively, your organization may choose to focus on a subset of the population: such as a drive for infants, a teen drive, or a period pack drive for women. Sure, everyone needs some soap, but a more focused drive can help fulfill the specific needs of an underserved population, that may not be possible otherwise. All that to say, that the content of the hygiene kit will vary based on the context. The ‘who’ and the ’why’ – will drive the ‘what’. We have included suggested lists below for several populations, so read on!
Decision 2: Individuals vs. Groups
Once you decided on the context, the next question is whether you will be providing supplies to individuals or groups.
You could purchase (or assemble) supplies meant for individuals. These would be suitable for the homeless for example, a child or a teen in the foster system, or whenever you have good data about the receiving population and can personalize them for each. Populations that are either transient or lack storage/stability, may also need individual starter kits. Such a kit will likely include a variety of essential items that will give immediate assistance for the short term.
A family kit will likely include larger bottles and containers, and if children are involved- could include children specific add-ons. Those are best for items such as cleaning supplies, people who live under the same roof and are able to hold larger amounts of these items for a longer period of time.
And then there are drives that are meant to support classrooms, after school programs, places of worship etc, in which case bulk items and large quantities are usually best, provided that there is available storage and ability to distribute those items according to COVID guidelines and in a way that makes sense logistically.
Whatever the decision is, it is always a good idea to think about individually wrapped items when it makes sense, given COVID guidelines and safety.
Decision 3: Pre Assembled Kits or Build Your Own?
In our last month’s post, we discussed the various possibilities for assembling school supplies, ranging from a pre-assembled backpack (a backpack that comes with all the supplies already in it), to individual items and assembling in-house. The same principle applies here. Pre-assembled kits will include multiple items and are usually ready to be used as is. They can arrive in various shapes and price ranges. We’ve shared various examples of such kits in a blog post last year, linked here along with advice on selecting the kit that suits your needs.
You may also choose to buy items individually – especially if you have a company or service group interested in assembling kits for a service project. This can also be helpful if you are supporting a diverse population. For example, if you want to assemble 100 kits, 60 of them are women, then you’ll need 100 toothbrushes, but only 60 feminine hygiene items. When assembling items yourself, be sure to plan for appropriate staffing resources.
Roonga can help you order pre-made kits or loose items in bulk at affordable prices. Here are some examples from a current drive on our website:
- Soap: $0.54
- Lotion: $0.64
- Disposable mask, pack of 5= $1.20
- Hand sanitizer 16.9oz: $3.60 per unit
Lastly, you may also choose to supplement the online drive with an offline component, or people who prefer to shop themselves. For example, you may order pre-assembled kits in bulk, but encourage donors to contribute comfort items such as make-up or cards.
Decision 4: Picking the Right Hygiene Supplies
Below are some suggestions of hygiene items for various populations. Some items are must haves and others are nice to haves.
This is your classic hygiene kit. Other items that can be added for an extra touch are a pair of socks, beauty products, and feminine care for females.
|Toothpaste and toothbrush||Dental Floss||Hair Brush or Comb|
|Shampoo and Conditioner||Lip Balm||Deodorant|
|Body and Hand soap||Shaving Needs||Mask and Hand Sanitizer|
Teens tend to have sensitive skin, and while some may be already using adult/regular products, many will appreciate skin care items or beauty products.
|Toothpaste and toothbrush||Dental Floss||Hair Brush or Comb|
|Shampoo and Conditioner||Lip Balm||Deodorant|
|Body and Hand soap||Facial cleansing soap or Acne Treatment||Face Mask and Sanitizer|
Kids K-5 will likely still use kids specific toothpaste and would likely prefer shampoo that doesn’t sting in their eyes. If they are back at school, it is essential to have a few items to allow them to sanitize their hands quickly after recess or a meal.
|Toothpaste and toothbrush||Face Mask and Sanitizer||Hair Brush or Comb|
|Shampoo and Conditioner||Wipes||Facial cleansing soap|
Knowing the age of the baby is helpful, to provide the proper diaper size. Some organizations provide newborn kits that has many of the basics, and later on supplement the child primarily with diapers and wipes.
|Pull Ups||DIaper Rash Cream||Baby lotion|
|Brush||Baby Bottles||Teething Ring|
Let’s not forget our beloved teachers and staff members who are back at school and will appreciate extra supplies for themselves or for the classroom.
|Face masks||Tissue||Paper Towels|
|Hand Sanitizer||Disinfecting wipes or spray||Disposable gloves|
Women: Period Packs
A pack for the ladies. Period poverty is real, with so many women not having access to basic hygiene items. Consider assembling the items in a non-transparent toiletry bag
Families who lack access to basic supplies, or those who share communal spaces such as bathroom and kitchen with others, will need
|Shampoo and Conditioner||Laundry Detergent||Toilet paper or cleansing wipes|
|Toothbrushes and Toothpaste for kids||Disinfecting wipes or spray||Cleaning Sponges|
|Toothbrushes and Toothpaste for adults||Hand Sanitizer||Hair Brush and comb|
|Soap (hand and body)||Shaving supplies||Feminie items|
School, Church or Shelter Office Kits
Any organization that is open for business will need some extra supplies to maintain the place clean, and to help visitors if needed.
|Large sanitizers||Face Masks||Paper Towels|
|Toilet paper||First Aid Items||Cleaning Supplies|
Decision 5: What SIze Toiletries To Pick?
In general, larger size bottles will be cheaper per oz than a smaller bottle (think family size), but the organization might not be able to provide a large bottle to each person in need, especially if supporting hundreds or thousands of people. In addition, there are other factors that go into your decision of which size to purchase, including:
- Will the hygiene items be shared with multiple people (e.g. communal showers in a shelter or multiple family members in a home)? Make sure that whenever items are shared, they are shared in a safe and proper way.
- Will the recipients have the appropriate space to store these toiletries? Opt for a smaller size if storage is limited
- How long will the items in the kit mean to last? If your kit will serve an emergency shelter where new residents arrive with nothing- then they would need all the basics for at least a few days.
Usage will obviously vary from one individual to another based on factors such as frequency (how often does one shampoo their hair?) or amounts used each time (does one only use the recommended ‘pea size’ amount of toothpaste each time?). However, consider these general guidelines from our own research and experience:
- 1 oz of Shampoo should last for about 10-12 washes on average. Short hair can probably get more out of it. Thick long hair will run through a bottle faster.
- Bars of soap are known to last longer than bottled body wash (and up to even a couple of months if used properly)
- A travel size deodorant (1-1.5oz) should last approximately two weeks. Sticks tend to last longer than sprays.
- A travel size toothpaste (3.4oz) should provide about 10 brushings, using a pea sized amount, according to Colgate. Assuming brushing twice a day, this tube should last about 5 days.
- According to Today, a 4-person household would need ~17 double rolls, or~ 9 mega rolls to last approximately 2 weeks.
- When supplying a large bottle for a family (especially with kids) consider a bottle with a pump that helps with ‘portion control’ and avoids unnecessary waste.
To summarize, the size of your toiletries should be in line with the number of recipients, the time the items are meant to last, and of course, your budget. And remember, every population varies so we recommend you track how often items run out, and adjust future plans based on your specific population and data.
While some organizations do not limit the type of items that are collected, we’ve seen others avoiding sharp items such as razors and scissors (especially for populations in prisons), items containing alcohol (e.g. mouthwash), or anything that could potentially be misused or risky for the recipient. If you are shipping your supplies overseas, also keep in mind that many shippers do not allow aerosol cans – so substitute shaving gel instead of canned shaving cream.
Comfort or Dignity Items
While essentials should always be prioritized, it is often the little extra things that stand out and make it a drive to remember. For children, consider adding crayons and an activity book – and perhaps even a small stuffed animal. Nail polish, hair ties, cologne or perfume, body mist, make-up are all examples of other items that provide comfort and a sense of dignity and pride, which are not less important for those in need. Even a piece of chocolate or a simple note with words of encouragement can make worlds of difference and personalize this wonderful gift.
In conclusion, hygiene items span through an array of product, sizes and purposes that will vary from one group to another. We hope that this article will guide you through the main decisions that are necessary to make it a successful program.
Questions? Contact us. We are here to help.