The county of San Diego has launched a pilot program to support greater access to free menstrual products, including tampons and pads.
The program called, Free 4 Menstrual Equity or Free4ME, hopes to help out women who lack access to or pay for menstrual products.
The county has partnered with "Aunt Flow" to install 57 free menstrual product dispensers in 23 county-owned facilities.
The facilities include the County Administration Center, libraries, community centers and family resource centers.
“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.
Studies have shown that nearly two-thirds of low-income people with periods in the U.S. have been unable to afford menstruation products during the previous year, and frequently must decide between purchasing food or other necessities and menstrual hygiene products.
The issue disproportionately affects school-aged individuals, with one recent study showing that one in five youths have missed school because they didn’t have access to menstrual products during their period.
“It is important that people who menstruate have access to menstrual health products,” said Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer. “They should be provided in our restrooms just as we provide toilet paper and paper towels.”
Food stamps and WIC do not cover the purchase of menstrual products. The Free4ME initiative was sparked by local community leaders including Youth Will and Planned Parenthood. Both organizations provided critical input into the development and evaluation of the program.
The county said the long-term goal of Free4ME is to install free menstrual product dispensers in all public-facing county facilities.
For more information and a list of locations, click here.