San Diego County launched the pilot program Free4ME to combat period poverty.
Period poverty is understood as a lack of knowledge of menstruation and an inability to access necessary sanitary materials. This situation is a lot more prevalent than most people think.
Essential period products are sadly considered a luxury to many around the country. Thirty states still do not exempt menstrual products from sales tax and they aren’t covered by food stamps or WIC. Since January 2020, Californian residents will not have to pay taxes on menstrual products until January 2022. However, after the two years are up, this will need to reconsidered when determining the state’s budget.
The San Diego County has recently launched a pilot program to combat this very issue, supporting greater access to free menstrual products like tampons and pads. The program Free 4 Menstrual Equity or Free4ME aims to help out women and people who menstruate who lack access to pay for menstrual products.
The county has partnered with the company Aunt Flow to install 57 free menstrual product dispensers in 23 county-owned facilities. These facilities include libraries, community centers, etc.
“Period poverty disproportionately impacts people experiencing homelessness, transgender people, youth and low-income individuals, and has only been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Nora Vargas.
Period poverty disproportionately affects school-aged individuals. According to a recent study, State of the Period, 1 in 5 teens in the US have struggled to afford period products or were not able to purchase them at all. Also over 4 in 5 students (84%) in the US have either missed or know someone who missed school because they didn´t have access to menstruation products.
The county said the long-term goal of Free4ME is to install free menstrual product dispensers in all public-facing county facilities.