While some cities and states mandate free period supplies, Cincinnatians are still in need
Almost four hours from Cincinnati, Ann Arbor, Mich., is newly requiring all public restrooms to provide free period products. That includes restrooms at private businesses. In California and Washington D.C., free menstrual products became required in public schools this year. There are no similar requirements in Cincinnati, but there is a similar need for access to period products.
Cincinnati-based organization Tidal Babe provides period kits to local partners, giving women 20 pads or tampons or a reusable period cup. Last year, the nonprofit gave away roughly 10,250 kits in the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area.
Megan Fischer, CEO and founder of COVERD Cincinnati, said, "Nationally, it's one in four menstruators don't have the products that they need to fully participate in life, go to school, go to work, just go out and not have that added stress of, 'How do I manage a period?' "
Fischer said the period bank sprung from a need she initially saw after she started Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank, which is also run through COVERD Cincinnati.
"We added that program on after realizing that a lot of our female caregivers who were picking up diapers for their babies were having to choose, 'Do I buy diapers for my kid or period supplies for myself?' " she said.
She estimates the organization served a minimum of 500 people in need of period products last year.
Fischer said she's seen the need for products increase yearly, especially during the pandemic.
The need has particularly increased at some Cincinnati Public Schools. Usually, Girls Health Period provides free menstrual products to dozens of schools. But more were in need during the pandemic and Tidal Babe helped fill the gap. Its period kits were handed out at meal distribution sites.
COVERD Cincinnati has about 52 partner organizations that distribute period kits or diapers throughout the community.
But the need for period products, Fischer said, is not being entirely met by her or any other organization, and it's a common misconception that people can access period supplies through government assistance. That's not the case.
"Honestly, all of these issues to me come back to a jobs issue," she said. "People cannot work if they don't have diapers for their babies and can't send them to daycare. People can't work if they don't have period supplies to either go to school, to get job training, or actually go to their job. So, to me, it makes a lot of economic sense to make sure that people have the basic hygiene items that they need to fully participate in daily life."
She says city- and state-wide programs, like the one in Ann Arbor, are essential for providing people with opportunities and dignity.
"I mean, that's the way it should be. That's the dream," she said. "That's how you help people get ahead. You make sure they have what they need to fully participate in daily life."