The Free 4 Menstrual Equity program, or Free4ME program, aims to combat poverty during menstruation, a person’s inability to access or pay for menstrual products.
SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif .– San Diego County has launched a pilot program to promote better access to free menstrual products, including tampons and sanitary napkins. The Free 4 Menstrual Equity program, or Free4ME program, aims to combat poverty during menstruation, a person’s inability to access or pay for menstrual products.
As part of the pilot program, the county recently partnered with Aunt Flow to install 57 dispensers of free menstrual products in 23 county-owned facilities throughout the region. Facilities include libraries, family resource centers, and community centers.
âAs a long-time advocate for healthcare and reproductive justice, I am proud that San Diego County has not only heard this call, but is the first known county government in the country to take concrete action to support the menstrual equity movement, âthe Supervisory Board said. Vice-president Nora Vargas. “Periodic poverty has a disproportionate impact on homeless people, transgender people, youth and low-income people, and was only exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic,”
Studies show that nearly two-thirds of low-income menstruating people in the United States could not afford to buy menstrual products in the past year and often have to choose between buying food or other basic necessities and menstrual hygiene products.
The problem disproportionately affects people of school age, with a recent study showing that one in five young people missed school because they did not have access to menstrual products during their period.
âIt’s important that people who are menstruating have access to menstrual health products,â said supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer. âThey should be provided in our washroom just like we provide toilet paper and paper towels.â
Food stamps and WICs do not cover the purchase of menstrual products, forcing many people to ration hygiene products by using them for long periods of time or using unsanitary items to manage their periods.
âMenstrual equity is a public health concern because people who do not have access to menstrual products are at greater risk of infections that can make them more vulnerable to infertility,â said Kelly Motadel, MD. , MPH, County Child Health Officer. âThe fact that these issues primarily affect vulnerable communities, especially with regard to income, should support and motivate progress towards achieving menstrual equity.â
The Free4ME initiative was started by local community leaders, including Will of young people and family planning. Both organizations made essential contributions to the development and evaluation of the program.
The county seller for menstrual distributors, Aunt Flow, is a leader in the menstrual equity movement. The company stocks its distributors with 100% organic cotton products, which contributes to the county’s commitment to sustainable development.
The long term goal of Free4ME is to install free menstrual dispensers in all public facilities in the county.