Period Product Distribution
Period poverty is defined as a lack of access to menstrual products, sanitation facilities, and adequate education. Period poverty means using toilet paper, fast food napkins, socks, and old clothing, paper towels from public restrooms, using the same tampon or pad for too long, and/or staying home because of inability to pay for or access sufficient products. This results in a list of physical and psychological health issues, missing school or work, ultimately enabling the cycle of poverty to continue.
Menstrual products aren’t seen as essential items and are rarely donated to shelters or resource banks. Many are forced to use make-shift alternatives and are at increased risk for health complications. Menstruation is costly; several studies have estimated the “cost of being a menstruator” at $20,000 over a lifetime. Period products, like diapers, are not supported by any government assistance programs and are still taxed in some states.
In 2019 Western Pennsylvania Diaper Bank participated in a national survey by the Alliance for Period Supplies, an organization formed through the National Diaper Bank Network to bring awareness to and address the root causes of period poverty. Survey results showed that in the Pittsburgh region 50% of respondents had to make a choice between spending money on period supplies or another basic need; 26% were unable to access period supplies every month; 60% of menstruators had to use something other than a period product; and 48% participants found that receiving these products helped relieve stress, improving overall mental health and wellness.
The Diaper Bank began to incorporate period poverty advocacy as part of its mission and established systems to get period products into the community. It formed the Period Advocacy Project and distributed period products as part of its regular monthly essential need supply distribution to its agency partners. Partners can choose the option of ordering period kits, with a month's supply of tampons, pads, and liners to supply to their clients.
By 2022 Western Pennsylvania Diaper Bank was distributing nearly 300,000 period products to partners and schools throughout Allegheny and Westmoreland county. That same year, the Diaper Bank hosted its first two large scale period product giveaway events, collaborating with SisterFriend and University of Pittsburgh to offer period products and period underwear menstruators.
As part of the Alliance for Period Supplies, Western Pennsylvania Diaper works to combat period poverty at the state and national level. It currently advocates for bills that end sales tax on period products and sanction offering supplies in schools and public restrooms.
To find a partner near you distributing period supplies, visit (link to period partner page).
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