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School’s on break, but periods aren’t.

julio 29, 2023

Students out of school for the summer may lack access to period supplies.

When the last school bell rang in California’s middle schools and high schools, students left textbooks and class desks behind as they headed out for their summer vacation. But that wasn’t all — they also left behind access to free menstrual products. 

California has been expanding the number of youth who have access to free menstrual products during the school year since the 2018 school year, when Assembly Bill 10 (Garcia) established free period products for the 40% of California middle and high school students who attended low-income schools. This school year was the first in which all schools were required to provide menstrual products as a result of Assembly Bill 367 (Garcia), making California the first state to achieve this essential access for our youth. But, there’s a problem, the summer. Like hunger, menstruation does not go on vacation, and while summer months can be a time for youth to have fun, explore, and rest, it can also be when they experience heightened period poverty and its negative consequences.

“As a full-time student and menstruator, I never know when to expect my period to come. During the summer months when school is out, we face even more menstrual product insecurity as the resources from our school become unavailable to us. Menstruation is a year-long experience, and it’s crucial that student menstruators have access to menstrual products at all times.” – Fiona Lu, high school student from Irvine, CA

Half of California’s teens menstruate, yet access to affordable menstrual products is a basic need many cannot afford. Period poverty, the inability to afford or access menstrual supplies, is especially problematic because it negatively impacts both physical and mental health. A recent study found that youth without access to period supplies are more likely to experience moderate or severe depression.

When households must choose between food and rent, there’s not much left in their budget to purchase essential hygiene necessities like menstrual products.  Thankfully, there are solutions to help mitigate the harm of period poverty currently being considered by the California legislature. These include:

  • SB 260 (Menjivar) – The Menstrual Equity Act of 2023 would add $20 in CalWORKs aid per month for each menstruating recipient to purchase menstrual products.
  • SB 59 (Skinner) – Equity, period. This bill would require free period products be offered in all women’s restrooms, all-gender restrooms, and in at least one men’s restroom in all state or state-leased buildings; all local government owned buildings where state-funded safety-net programs are administered; and all hospitals that receive state funding. This is a two-year bill.

What’s more, recent state budget decisions have supported the exploration of additional solutions for the problem of period poverty. The Budget Act of 2021 provided $2 million one-time for a three year menstrual product pilot project to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank (LARFB) and Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank (SDFB). These food banks distribute menstrual products year-round in areas where low-income individuals and families already access free groceries and resources. Not only is this pilot increasing access to period products for low-income students and individuals, but it also destigmatizes periods and promotes a new level of period education in the region.  

Check out our report, California Menstrual Products Pilot: Addressing Period Poverty in Los Angeles & San Diego for a year-in-review of this innovative and highly successful pilot.

“Our food bank is proud to have distributed 3.3 million menstrual products to over 114,000 households in 2022, including during the summer months when teens lose access to resources from school. Families, and especially students, should have the tools they need to thrive both in and out of school, and that includes basic hygiene essentials.” – Derek Polka, Los Angeles Regional Food Bank

The incredible success of this three year pilot has led to a campaign, championed by State Senator Monique Limón and State Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber, to seek expansion to other regions and make the funding more permanent. And the great news is that by making the pilot permanent and expanding access to central and northern regions of the state to create regional equity to this basic need, we will have more tools to address the menstrual product gap experienced in the summer.

Menstruators cannot control the fact that they get their period, but Californians can control whether we decide to help. That is why we are so grateful for legislative champions who have and continue to lead the way on eliminating period poverty for all Californians, but especially for our youth. Food Banks are proud to stand in partnership with them and with the youth leaders from San Diego to Humboldt who are working to improve menstrual product access and to ensure period poverty free summers for everyone. 

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