Health & Wellness

San Diego now offers free menstrual products throughout the city

The mayor and city council included $100,000 for the Free4Me pilot to place the products in city-owned facilities like libraries, recreation centers and public restrooms at beaches

Annette Riedl/picture alliance via Getty Images

San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava on Wednesday designated Aug. 30, 2023 as "Menstrual Hygiene Equity Day" and helped launch the city's Free4Me pilot program for free menstrual products.

"Today, we celebrate `Menstrual Hygiene Equity Day,' and announce the installation of dispensers offering free menstrual products within facilities throughout the city," he said. "This new city program ensures access to menstrual hygiene products, especially for our youth and under-resourced communities."

The cost of menstrual products can present barriers to nearly two-thirds of low-income menstruating women throughout the nation, a statement from LaCava's office reads.

LaCava introduced the Free4Me Pilot Program, based on a similar county program, to address this inequity and increase feminine product access within the city.

"Menstrual inequity is a public health concern for our women and youths," said Dr. Joelle Donofrio-Odmann, the city's deputy chief medical director. "Without access to adequate menstrual supplies, short-term solutions such as using toilet paper or trying to wear a tampon for a prolonged period, can lead to hygiene issues from mild irritation, local infections, increased susceptibility to sexually transmitted diseases, urinary tract infections, and even sepsis or death from toxic shock syndrome.

"Inadequate access to these products can lead to decreased school days and even anxiety and depression," she said. "Those who are homeless, transgender, youth, and low income are disproportionately affected. The Free4Me pilot program is a medical necessity for our public."

The mayor and City Council included $100,000 for the Free4Me pilot to place feminine hygiene products in city-owned facilities, targeting libraries, recreation centers and public restrooms at beaches.

"The San Diego Public Library is committed to meeting the needs of the communities we serve," said Jennifer Jenkins, San Diego Public Library deputy director of customer experience. "The Free4Me program is an important part of that mission. The library has offered period packs in the past, but the Free4Me program guarantees greater access to menstrual products across more San Diego Public Library locations, allowing us to offer these essential supplies to the San Diegans who need them and helping to end period poverty."

For a list of participating locations, visit sandiego.gov/public-library/free4me.

The county program with the same name launched in May 2021 and has since distributed hundreds of thousands of menstrual products. Those locations can be found at livewellsd.org/i-want-to/get-involved/sector-teams/free4me.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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