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County expands free menstrual product program

Katie Cadiao

County of San Diego Communications Office

The County of San Diego is expanding its free menstrual product program due to high demand for free tampons and pads.

Since the Free 4 Menstrual Equity, or Free4ME, program launched last May, the county has provided more than 141,000 tampons and pads via the menstrual product dispensers that were installed in 24 county-owned facilities across the San Diego region.

Following the completion of the year-long pilot program, the county is now preparing to install dispensers at additional county sites.

Food stamps and WIC do not cover the purchase of menstrual products, forcing many people to ration sanitary products by using them for extended amounts of time, or using unsanitary items to manage their periods. Using menstrual products beyond the recommended amount of time is dangerous and can cause toxic shock syndrome, a type of bacterial infection.

"The Free4ME pilot program showed that there is a critical need for free menstrual hygiene products, and we are excited to continue expanding this program to all County facilities," said Kelly Motadel, M.D., M.P.H., 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."

A person's inability to access or pay for menstrual products – referred to as period poverty – disproportionately affects school-aged people. One recent study showed that one in four students in the US have struggled to afford period 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 implementation of the program.

The county's vendor for the menstrual product dispensers, Aunt Flow, is a leader in the menstrual equity movement. The company stocks its dispensers with 100% organic cotton products, which contributes to the county's commitment to sustainability.


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