San Diego County prepares to expand its free menstrual product program after its year-long pilot period
The county has provided more than 141,000 tampons and pads through menstrual product dispensers installed at 24 county-owned facilities throughout the region. With the extension of the program, Free 4 Menstrual Equity (Free4ME), menstruators can find free sanitary products at additional county locations.
According to County Child Health Officer Kelly Motadel, the pilot program showed a “critical need for free menstrual hygiene products”.
“We are excited to continue expanding this program to all County facilities,” Motadel said. “No one who needs these products should have to go without them or risk infection because they are using the products longer than recommended.”
County officials cited one recent study that showed that one in four students in the United States has struggled to afford period products. Period poverty, or a person’s inability to access or pay for menstrual products, showed that one in five youths missed school because they didn’t have access to menstrual products during their period.
Food stamps and WIC do not cover the purchase of menstrual products, forcing many individuals to ration sanitary products by using them for extended amounts of time or using unsanitary items to manage their periods.
The pilot program was launched last May by community leaders, including Youth Will and Planned Parenthood. County officials credit both programs for “providing critical input to the development and implementation” of the initiative.
The menstrual equity group, Aunt Flow, serves as a vendor for menstrual product dispensers and stocks them with 100% organic cotton products.
A map showing where Free4ME dispensers are located can be found at www.livewellsd.org/content/livewell/home/community/youth-leadership/Free4ME.html.