My name is Emily Parker, and I am an AmeriCorps VISTA serving at the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona, where we love to talk about poop, pee, and periods!
Have your attention yet? I know poop, pee and periods may not be considered “polite conversation” in a “normal” office. But these are normal bodily functions, and shrouding them in shame ultimately obstructs access to essential supplies like diapers, incontinence pads, and tampons.
As the nation’s FIRST diaper bank, the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona has a 25-year trailblazing history of addressing “unmentionable” needs with dignity and respect. I am particularly passionate talking about period poverty, which is the Diaper Bank’s newest line of work and an issue that affects me personally.
Period poverty? In our community? Yes! Do you want the good news or the bad news first?
I’m assuming you want the bad news first. Here it is:
- A national survey found that more than 1 in 3 women had at some point struggled to afford period products, yet only 4% of women knew of a local resource where they could access free or reduced-cost period supplies.
- Lack of access to period supplies is linked to using substitute products (like toilet paper or socks), stretching product use, and missing important events. In fact, 1 in 5 low-income women report missing work, school or similar events due to lack of access to period supplies, according to the Alliance for Period Supplies.
- In the first city-wide study on period poverty in the U.S., 46% of low-income women interviewed were forced to choose between purchasing food or period products in the past year.
- State and federal safety-net programs, like SNAP and WIC, cannot be used to purchase period supplies, plus period supplies are subject to sales tax in most states.
- The poverty rate here in Pima County is 40% higher than the national average, and the largest demographic living in poverty in our county are women ages 18-24, according to Census data.
Now for the good news!
- In 2018, your Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona joined with the national Alliance for Period Supplies to begin distributing period products.
- We now distribute 12,800 pads and liners each year via fourteen different agencies serving our community!
- Our fourteen distribution partners—including Our Family Services Homeless Youth Services, the International Rescue Committee, the Pascua Yaqui Charitable Organization, the Primavera Foundation, and many teen parent and student support programs—do incredible work in our community and integrate menstrual care essentials with the many services they offer.
- This February, we launched community workshops to provide accessible education on reusable period products (like menstrual cups or cloth pads) and to provide eligible participants with free reusable products! The first workshop was a great success, and we are planning to offer community webinars during social distancing.
- You can support the movement to #EndPeriodPoverty in Southern Arizona by following @AccessPeriodAZ on Facebook and Instagram.
Emily Parker is an AmeriCorps VISTA serving as Outreach Coordinator at the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona.