“Wow!! I’ve heard about this in other countries….I shouldn’t be surprised it happens in the states too!” That’s what a friend posted on my Facebook page when I announced that I would be helping Always raise awareness of American girls’ lack of access to period products (known as period poverty). And to be honest, it’s exactly what I thought too.
But did you know that almost 1 in 5 American girls have their school year disrupted because they either miss school or have to leave early because they don’t have access to period products?¹ This means they are missing important classes and assignments and they are not participating in sports, clubs and other activities that allow them to grow and build confidence at school.
In this article:
- Period Poverty – This Cut Me Deep
- Donating Millions of Period Products to Girls in Need
- Make a Difference by Donating to Local Organizations
- Tackling Barriers for Students Coming to School
- Remove the Stigma Around Periods
- Here Are 3 Ways You Can Help End Period Poverty
Period Poverty – This Cut Me Deep
That statistic cut me deep when I heard it. It cut me deep because I am a woman. It cut me deep because I have 3 school-aged daughters. It cut me deep because I remember that during my own personal journey through grade school there were so many things that caused me to lose confidence. Was I smart enough, was I pretty enough, was I popular enough? I could only imagine how having to deal with needing period products and not having access to them (month after month) would have impacted me on top of everything else. That is such a big issue for any young girl to have to deal with.
Donating Millions of Period Products to Girls in Need
I am truly honored that Always asked me to help raise awareness of American girls’ lack of access to period products and the impact it has on them missing school and their confidence. For decades now, Always has been empowering millions of girls through puberty and confidence education through the Always #LikeAGirl movement.
Always is not only raising awareness about period poverty through conversations, but they are also working to donate 15 million additional period products to Feeding America, through their school pantry program that provides food, toiletries and personal care products to kids that are in need. We can all help, because every purchase of Always products from July 29 – September 8 will trigger a donation of products to girls in need.
But I wanted to find out more ways that I could take action to help end period poverty. So I went down to the Atlanta Community Food Bank to find out what other ways I (we) could get involved.
Make a Difference by Donating to Local Organizations
The Atlanta Community Food Bank, which is a member of the Feeding America network, is working to end hunger in our community through food donations. Nearly 6 million pounds of food and grocery products are received by the Atlanta Community Food Bank each month. And that food is distributed to over 600 partner food assistant programs in 29 local counties throughout the metro Atlanta area.
When I arrived at the food bank, Sequoya Finch (School Pantry Manager) and Torey Repetski (Child Nutrition Coordinator) met me with open arms. They gave me a tour of their massive and impressive 115,000 square foot facility.
Before coming to work at the food bank, Sequoya Finch said she was a teacher. She talked about her experience with period poverty at the schools: “I would have students, female students, not being able to come to school. Girls as young as elementary school age were missing school because of that [no period products.] And at first, they wouldn’t speak of it. It was like, ‘Okay they’re sick and they can’t make it to school…’ But after speaking to the parents and getting down to the bottom of why they were missing school, that issue came out for a few of the girls.”
Sequoya said that the teachers, nurses and social workers are all buying sanitary napkins for the girls. This is money that they are taking out of their own pockets to supply girls with much period products every month.
The Always donation via the Feeding America Pantry program will help food banks tackle another barrier for families and for students coming to school.
Tackling Barriers for Students Coming to School
The staff at the Atlanta Community Food Bank were very excited about this opportunity. Even though the food bank’s main goal is food, they are always looking for ways to provide families with pretty much everything they need. The Always donation via the Feeding America pantry program will help them tackle another barrier for families and for students coming to school.
“We definitely have a lot of families here in crisis and in some of our communities, there are families living in extended stay hotels and they don’t have the stability that a lot of families have. So getting sanitary products is probably not high on your list and if your daughter has just gotten her period it’s a scary time. Not being able to address those needs is certainly something that happens,” said Torey Repetski, Child Nutrition Coordinator for the Atlanta Community Food Bank.
Remove the Stigma Around Periods
I also learned that another important way we can help, start educating our younger girls about their menstrual cycle. When they know what to expect, they’re not so afraid and ashamed that they’re going through this time. Some girls are experiencing their periods as early as the third grade. And this definitely plays a lot on their self-confidence because they are dealing with something that older girls have to deal with. It will help girls to be able to speak up about their needs when it comes to period products if we are able to prepare them in advance for what’s to come and help them be more comfortable with talking about their periods.
“I definitely feel that it’s something that we need to do” said Sequoya Finch, “I would say start as young as third grade, bring awareness, talk more about it, introduce girls to it and let them know what to expect so that they’re not so afraid and so ashamed that they’re going through this new time and that it doesn’t make them any different from anyone else. I think it’s key that we educate and prepare the girls for what’s to come so that all those other concerns and self-doubt, low self-esteem are not attached to that.”
Here Are 3 Ways You Can Help End Period Poverty
My time at the Atlanta food bank was definitely eye-opening and I left there knowing exactly how I could help. In summary, here are 3 things that we all can start doing today, to help end period poverty:
- Purchase Always: One major way that you can help this cause is simply by purchasing Always products, because every purchase of Always from July 29 – September 8 will trigger a donation of products to girls in need.
- Educate Girls: Talk to your girls and help them to become more comfortable with talking about their periods. You can also spark conversations on social media to help remove the stigma around this issue.
- Donate Products: You can donate directly to food banks in your area. And you can also donate to your local schools too.
While registering my kids for school last week, I donated extra money to all of their nurses’ offices. In our county, we have an online portal where we pay for lunch money, field trips and school fees. I’ve always skipped the field where they ask you to donate to the nurse’s office. But last week, I could not skip that field. (I told you…this cut me deep.) I wanted to do my part as a parent to ensure that our schools have supplies available to support our kids.
BMWK – Were you previously aware of how period poverty was impacting girls in the US? Now that you know, let me know below what you plan to do about it in your local area.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Always. The opinions and text are all mine.
For more information, visit https://always.com/en-us/about-us/end-period-poverty
1The Always Confidence & Puberty Study Wave V, March 2017; based on U.S. females 16-24 years old; 2017 census.