When New York piloted its program to bring free menstrual products to schools, councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland turned to HOSPECO to provide a free dispenser and products to evaluate the program’s feasibility and assess costs. While the initial dispenser is free of charge, schools are responsible for funding the program once it is up and running.

The first rotary mechanism dispenser was installed at Corona, New York’s High School for the Arts. Thereafter, the program expanded to multiple schools in the Bronx and finally — once the bill was signed — district-wide.

“For most women, menstrual-care products are personal, and they have their own preferences,” says Hermann. “The products dispensed from these machines are not their product of choice; having said that, if they require it, they’re going to use it.”

Most importantly, tampons and pads should be easily accessible. Annie Lascoe, a supporter of menstrual equity, had this goal in mind when she co-founded Conscious Period, a company that makes environmentally friendly, organic tampons. For every box of product sold, Conscious Period donates product to organizations that serve homeless or low-income women.

“Schools are such an important place to start [this initiative],” says Lascoe. “If you’re at school and you forgot your pad at home, it can be totally humiliating. You have to ask for a bathroom break from the teacher, get permission to go to the nurse’s office and get a pad, then go back to the restroom, and then back to class where the teacher asks you why you took so long. Also, from a psychological standpoint, going to a nurse’s office tells girls they’re sick when they have their period, and that’s not true.”

For low-income students, a tampon tax only adds insult to injury: A box of tampons or pads can cost anywhere from $7 to $10, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, does not give allowances for feminine care products. As Lascoe points out, a single mother on food stamps with three menstruating daughters is likely to spend an estimated $40 a month on feminine care products.

“That’s insane — and unjust,” she says.

Some students may even skip school when they have their period because they can’t afford to purchase tampons or pads. According to Hemann, New York schools have reported an increase in attendance as a direct result of offering free menstrual products.

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