5 min read
by Team Thinx | 05/24/2023
We are proud to uplift the critical work of a long-time Thinx partner, the Alliance for Period Supplies, as they celebrate their five-year anniversary during the 4th annual Period Poverty Awareness Week (May 22 - 28). A program of the National Diaper Bank Network, the Alliance for Period Supplies is comprised of independently operated nonprofit organizations that collect, warehouse, and distribute menstrual and period supplies in local communities.
Their mission is to ensure that those in need of period products have access to the supplies they need to fully participate in daily life. By raising awareness about period poverty, advocating for legislative action to make period products more affordable & accessible, and facilitating the widespread supply of period products to those in need, they have donated millions of products and impacted innumerable lives — and they’re just getting started.
To that end, we sat down with the organization to discuss their origins, the impacts of their work, and how we can work towards a future beyond the cycle of period poverty.
Alliance for Period Supplies: It was need, pure and simple. Two in five people in this country who need period products have struggled to buy them. Going without means students miss school and adults miss work. It also means that people cut back on other basic necessities, like food, so that they can purchase the supplies they need. Research has shown an association between period poverty and depression.
The National Diaper Bank Network already had expertise in getting a basic material necessity (diapers) to low-wage families and people living in poverty. The organization’s leadership recognized that its strategy for distributing product; empowering community-based nonprofits to work more effectively; raising awareness of public health issues; and driving policy change would work to combat period poverty just as it combats diaper need. Since its founding in 2011, NDBN’s network has grown to include more than 300 basic needs banks based in communities throughout the US. Today, many member diaper banks are also members of the Alliance for Period Supplies, which was launched as a program of NDBN in 2018. Plus, we help people who concentrate solely on period poverty to start and grow organizations around the country.
Our nonprofit focuses on getting people the material things that they need to thrive. The Alliance for Period Supplies celebrates all of the organizations working in the menstrual health and equity space. We think we provide real value here through our ability to link up on-the-ground organizations with research and policy opportunities. The staff and volunteers at our member organizations are inspiring folks who are 100% committed to making sure no one has to miss out because they are on their period. We believe that lifting these amazing advocates up and giving them the tools to have even greater impact is the best strategy there is to make sure everyone who menstruates can get the products they need.
The Alliance for Period Supplies is fighting period poverty through donations, education and advocacy. We distribute millions of free period supplies to our members who in turn get them to people in their local communities. We educate the public about period poverty, a topic that still isn’t talked about enough. And, we advocate and promote transformative changes to public policy at the local, state, and federal levels.
We support more than 130 independent nonprofits around the US that are getting essential products to people who menstruate every day. Together, they create more than 420,000 worry-free cycles every year. These community-based organizations often connect clients with other valuable services that help them to live healthier and more prosperous lives.
We use our national platform to talk about period poverty — which really is a critical strategy to ending it. Though it is changing, there’s a lingering belief that period poverty does not happen in rich countries. It does! Right now, I’m working with allied organizations to plan Period Poverty Awareness Week (May 22 – 28, 2023). That’s an annual event where we intensively talk with communities and policymakers about period poverty and how we can all contribute to ending it.
Alliance for Period Supplies is also a research-oriented organization and a trusted source for information. Our partnerships with academics are inspiring important work that documents period poverty and its effects on women, girls, and anyone who menstruates.
All of this public awareness is helping to fuel legislation around the country to remove state sales tax on period supplies and to provide them for free in schools and other public buildings. The tampon tax — which refers to the state sales tax on menstrual products — is being eliminated in state after state. Today, 16 states and Washington D.C. have passed legislation to provide free period products in schools, and another five provide some grant funding to assist with these supplies for students. We help advocates succeed by providing them with model legislation, coalition building, and guidance on campaigns.
Period poverty is the inability to afford the products you need to manage your menstrual cycle. Not having the money to buy products is something that happens to two in five of us. Period poverty harms people in so many ways. People don’t change products as often as recommended. They miss school or work because they have nothing to use.
It's a terrible thing — and also an opportunity. By making a relatively small investment to provide people with the products they need, we can help them be healthier and more successful at work or school. That’s why I believe that period poverty will eventually be eliminated in the US. The return on investment will be tremendous.
Another thing that makes me confident that we can end period poverty: Everyone can be part of the solution.
Corporate partners like Thinx are invaluable. Period underwear can really be life-changing for many of the people served by our allied programs, because it is a long-term solution to managing your period. The need is huge, so when we partner with a manufacturer who can generously give us large product donations, it’s a huge win in our efforts to end period poverty.
The Alliance for Period Supplies gets contacted all the time by policymakers who have learned about period poverty and want to be part of the solution. That can be through getting rid of discriminatory sales taxes, funding period products in schools and other public buildings, or finding ways to directly fund products for people who cannot afford these basic essentials.
We also work at the grassroots level to help people organize for change. You do not have to be a senator to do something about this. Anyone can go to a board of education meeting and demand that period supplies are as freely available as toilet paper in school restrooms; anyone can write a letter to the editor about the tampon tax or the lack of period supplies in school restrooms; anyone can call their member of Congress to ask them to support the Period PROUD Act. The Alliance for Period Supplies will even help you with information on how to do these things — just visit our website.
Finally, you can work directly on period poverty in your own community. Again, visit the Alliance for Period Supplies website to identify an organization near you. You could make a donation, organize a product drive, or volunteer at a packing or distribution event. If there’s no organization serving your area, you may even decide to start one. The Alliance for Period Supplies staff is always here to offer you resources and support.
At Thinx, we strive to provide our readers with the most up-to-date, objective, and research-based information. Our content is crafted by experienced contributors who ground their work in research and data. Articles contain trusted third-party sources that are either directly linked within the text or listed at the bottom to lead readers to the original source.
Thinx. State of The Period 2021. https://www.thinx.com/thinx/blogs/periodical/odds-and-ends/state-of-the-period-2021
Alliance for Period Supplies. U by Kotex Period Poverty Awareness Week — Survey Results. https://allianceforperiodsupplies.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/U_by_Kotex_Period_Poverty_-_PPAW_Data_Set.pdf
GMU College of Public Health. 1 in 10 College Women Experience Period Poverty, More Likely to Experience Depression. https://chhs.sitemasonry.gmu.edu/news/2021-02/1-10-college-women-experience-period-poverty-more-likely-experience-depression
by Team Thinx