Putting a period on ‘period poverty’
Mid-Del Schools offering free period products
By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
Lack of access to period products is nothing new for students.
But at Mid-Del Schools, it may soon be a thing of the past.
The school district announced it’s combating period poverty by providing dispensers with free period products in restrooms at all schools. The district partnered with SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital – Midwest, and Mid-Del Public Schools Foundation on the innovative program.
Period poverty is known as the condition of being disadvantaged due to menstruation and is most often experienced by individuals under financial constraints. Lack of access to adequate pads or tampons can lead to students missing class, staying home from school, falling behind academically and more.
“Period poverty is one of those problems that people tend to think of as happening in other times and places – if they are aware of it at all,” said Lindse Barks, director, Mid-Del Public Schools Foundation. “Unfortunately, period poverty is very real for today’s Oklahoma students, and we believe this partnership will go a long way to help address it. Additionally, we hope this will help start a dialogue not only in our schools but in our community and the state as a whole, so we may all better understand and confront the inequities brought about by period poverty.”
The district made the announcement last Thursday morning at Midwest City Middle School.
The issue of period poverty in Mid-Del came to the forefront a few years ago. A couple of teachers at Del City High School realized that many of their students did not have access to period products at home. Students were able to get products from the counselor’s office, which often led to missed class time and embarrassment. And some skipped school all together.
Teachers Angel McCollister and Danielle Taylor worked on their own to help students by buying tampons and pads. Word spread about the program – called the Sisterhood Project – and more donations started coming in.
“We bought baskets from our local dollar tree and stocked them,” said McCollister. “We fought for three years to try to make sure our girls had the products that they needed so that they weren’t missing out on class.”
The Mid-Del Public Schools Foundation later joined the effort with hopes to expanding the program throughout the district. Barks met with those Del City teachers and discussed a goal of adding dispensers with free period products in every restroom.
Last spring, the Foundation and Junior Service League of Midwest City held a Galentine’s Day fundraiser to raise money for the program.
Superintendent Rick Cobb supported their goal to expand the program. The district committed to pay for the period products, if the Foundation could raise money to buy the dispensers.
“In my mind I thought it would take about 5-10 years to be able to purchase the 207 dispensers across the district,” Barks said. “That would have been an obtainable goal. We could do a little bit here and there.”
That timeline shortened dramatically with help from SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital – Midwest. The hospital staff agreed to help fund the project.
Barks said the program is a game changer.
“It’s a game changer because teachers no longer have to purchase period products for their students,” Barks said. “It’s a game changer because parents won’t have to leave work when someone has an emergency. And it’s a game changer for students because they have access to what they need and they won’t need to miss class anymore because of this.”
The district is using Aunt Flow, a nationwide supplier of period products, to install 207 dispensers during the fall semester. High-quality period products will be made available for free to all students and teachers, regardless of income or need.
SSM Health – St. Anthony Midwest donated $37,925 to purchase the dispensers. Karen Green, the Regional Director of Mission Integration, SSM Health St. Anthony, said the donation is a continuation of their legacy to serve those in need.
“The Founding Sisters of SSM Health St. Anthony were dedicated to serving the most in our communities. We continue in that ministry. We began by seeking to better understand the needs of the communities that we serve and using our resources and expertise to better provide care and compassion for every person with a focus of reaching out to many who have difficulty accessing the services and resources they need. That’s why the partnership with Mid-Del Schools is such a great fit.”
She also applauded the district and the Foundation for identifying a pressing need and finding a meaningful solution.
Cobb thanked all of the partners for helping making the program a reality.
“On top of the district’s commitment, we wouldn’t have been able to reach this point without SSM Health, Aunt Flow and of course, the Mid-Del Public Schools Foundation,” he said.
Dispensers were added first at Midwest City Middle School and Del City High School. Barks said they hope to have the rest of the dispensers installed by the end of October.