Period Poverty is the lack of access to essential hygiene products used to manage a menstrual cycle such as tampons, pads, and liners. Various obstacles prevent a significant population of menstruators of all ages from being able to access period products on a reliable basis, including unfair tax rates and stigma surrounding the topic of menstruation. Period poverty affects nearly a quarter of all students (up from 1 in 5 in 2019), with lower income students and students of color being particularly affected. This can have a significant impact on a student’s education if they consistently miss school due to their period.
Individuals without access to period products are often forced to resort to unreliable and unsafe management methods such as rolled up toilet paper, socks, or overused pads. These unsafe methods can not only lead to physical side effects such as serious illness or infection, but also mental side effects like depression and anxiety. For these reasons, period poverty is a public health issue.
A higher tax rate on period products is discriminatory because it disproportionally affects the population that menstruates. Public restrooms provide free toilet paper, soap, and paper towels, so why not tampons and pads? This would significantly improve access to period products. The existing programs that assist lower income families with basic needs, such as SNAP and food stamps, do not include period products. Additionally, Kansas and Missouri are among the many states that enforce a higher tax rate on period products, labeling them as non-essential items.
Many of our trans and non-binary community members are often left out of the conversation surrounding period poverty while they face additional significant barriers to safely accessing period products. This is another reason why period products should be available in ALL restrooms, not just the women-labeled restrooms.
Large manufacturers of tampons and pads opt for less expensive methods of production, leaving harmful ingredients in their products that cause illnesses such as TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome), a life-threatening condition caused by a release of toxins via bacteria in the body. Although there are safer, 100% cotton options available in the market, they come with a hefty price tag. This leaves the lower income population once again susceptible to higher risks due to the lack of affordability of toxin-free period products.
Reusable menstrual cups, pads, and underwear are an investment initially that become much more economical than single-use period products in the long-run. They are also toxin-free and eliminate the risk of illnesses such as TSS. Additionally, single-use period products contain plastics and packaging that contribute to over 200,000 metric tons of waste annually. By opting for a reusable menstrual management method, a menstruator can keep hundreds of pounds of plastics and waste out of landfills over their lifetime.
Strawberry Week exists for many important reasons.
We will continue to share information on the current economic, environmental, and legislative climates of period poverty while freely distributing period products throughout our community. Together, with your support, we can break the cycle of period poverty for generations to come.