San Diego County is expanding its free menstrual products program to meet increased demand, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.
Launched last May as a pilot program, Free 4 Menstrual Equity (Free4ME) provides pads and tampons in dispensers installed in 24 county-owned facilities, including community centers and libraries. Since then, Free4ME has provided more than 141,000 feminine products and the county will install more dispensers.
The pilot program “showed that there is a critical need for free menstrual hygiene products,” said Kelly Motadel, county child health officer. “No one who needs these products should have to go without them or risk infection because they are using the products longer than recommended.”
According to a county news release, a person’s inability to access or pay for menstrual products, referred to as “period poverty,” disproportionately affects school-aged residents. A recent study, called “State of the Period,” showed that one in four U.S. students have struggled to afford menstrual products.
According to the county, neither food stamps nor the Women, Infants and Children program can be used to purchase menstrual products. In turn, that can result in people using products for extended amounts of time or using unsanitary items that can cause toxic shock syndrome, a type of bacterial infection.
Aunt Flow, a menstrual equity group, serves as the vendor for the menstrual product dispensers and stocks them with 100% organic cotton products, officials said.
According to the county, the community group Youth Will and Planned Parenthood were the main drivers behind Free4ME, and “provided critical input into the development and implementation of the program.”
A map showing where Free4ME dispensers are located can be found at www.livewellsd.org.
City News Service contributed to this article.