As the cost of living continues to rise across Canada, many women are forced to choose between feeding their families and buying menstrual products, advocates say.
In an effort to combat period poverty – a lack of access to menstrual products, education and hygiene facilities – the federal government announced Thursday it would fund $17.9 million to Food Banks Canada . These funds will help the organization conduct a nationwide pilot program aimed at addressing the challenges of affordability and stigma a*sociated with access to menstrual products that many Canadians face.
“We feel the pressure of rising costs in almost everything. And today, we are thinking of women, those who have their periods, who must think twice before taking a box of napkins or a box of tampons,” declared the Minister of Women and Equal Opportunities. Gender and Youth, Marci Ien, during a press conference.
“Period poverty is not some sort of abstract concept; it has a direct link to the wallets of women and girls. And it’s not just a question of accessibility, it’s also a question of cost.
According to a March 2023 report from Women and Gender Equality Canada, one in six Canadians who menstruate have personally experienced period poverty, and that figure rises to one in four if their household earns less than $40,000 per year . The survey also found that one in five people who menstruate say they may struggle to afford menstrual products in the next year.
Food Bank Canada is set to launch the National Menstrual Equity Fund pilot project which will distribute free menstrual products to various low-income communities across the country, Ien said.
The organization will also partner with several local organizations, including the Allen Gardens Food Bank in Toronto, where the press conference took place.
Meryl Wharton, president of the food bank, said that due to the rising cost of living and inflation, the food bank has seen an increase in visits in recent years.
“Food security is deteriorating,” she said at the press conference. “At the beginning, we fed 100 to 150 people. Now we are treating 1,100 people in two days.
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Most customers are women who need baby food and menstrual products, like pads and tampons.
She recalls a recent incident where a mother approached the food bank looking for menstrual products for her three daughters. Initially, she received six towels. When she returned the following week, she said she decided to cut the towels in half to try to double the quantity and meet her family’s needs.
“That’s what’s happening,” she said. “They’re asking for pads, tampons, anything we can give them,” she said.
Lack of access to menstrual products is closely linked to poverty and disproportionately affects youth, single mothers, Indigenous peoples, Black and other racialized communities, immigrants, and people experiencing homelessness.among other groups (?)said Ien.
“These products are a basic necessity, as basic as toilet paper, as basic as picking up a bar of soap, as basic as buying paper towels,” she said. “This pilot project is about ensuring that no one in this country is stopped from going to work or going to school because they feel they need to hide, because they have their period.”
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