When it comes to getting your period, there’s honestly not a lot to love about it.
Not only can periods be uncomfortable, they’re also surrounded by all sorts of shame and stigma. I think anyone who menstruates can tell you some sort of story about a time they need help in regards to their period but were too afraid to ask for it, and that’s where The Period Pantry comes in.
Founder Jillian Guinan knew first hand what it was like to lack the basic period necessities. When I first heard about The Period Pantry, Guinan’s story struck a chord. She shared that at one point her life, she had stocked up on free period products at work because she couldn’t afford to buy them for herself.
Spoiler alert: she’s wasn’t alone. In a 2018 study commissioned by U by Kotex®, one in four women surveyed struggled to purchase period products.
In the same study, one in five low-wage women reported missing work, school or similar events due to lack of access to period supplies. The statistics are harrowing and they include only cisgender women, instead of all people who menstruate, such as non-binary and trans people.
As Guinan moved onward in life, she was working as a community health worker and started repeatedly encountering clients who needed help getting pads and tampons. Guinan considers herself to be a bit of a resource guru, a problem solver, and she knew this was a problem that she could do something about.
It became apparent to her that the problem was widespread and so she put out a call to friends and colleagues and formed The Period Pantry, which launched in March 2020, just ahead of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Period products, along with other hygiene essentials like soap and shampoo, can’t be purchased with food stamps. For people struggling with poverty, periods can quickly become unaffordable. But The Period Pantry aims to change that.
Those in need can sign up for The Period Pantry online. Period products are delivered monthly straight to people’s doors in simple packaging. There’s no cost for receiving the period products and by having them delivered, barriers like reliable transportation don’t keep people from getting the help they need.
“We try to make it as easy as possible for people get what they need. We mostly do no-contact deliveries, due to COVID-19,” explained Guinan. “I’ve worked in the non-profit field for ten years and I’ve seen a lot of the different barriers that come up for people. A big part of it, for me, is wanting to provide this service with as few barriers and hoops as possible.”
It’s a small, grassroots effort and The Period Pantry is always looking for delivery volunteers. The Period Pantry accepts both monetary and product donations. Guinan says roughly 75% of the products are purchased with donated funds and around 25% of the products are donated.
When it comes to donating products, The Period Pantry receives a lot of donations through product drives. Guinan spoke about one drive that a man started on his neighborhood group on Nextdoor. By the end of it, he had a trunkload of goods ready to donate to The Period Pantry.
Currently, there’s a product drive going on at Starbucks in Lancaster in honor of Women’s History Month. Customers can drop period products in the basket throughout the month and then The Period Pantry will make sure they go directly to the people who need them the most.
In addition to home deliveries, The Period Pantry has also partnered with the Center for Healthy Families, LSS CHOICES Domestic Violence Shelter, Black Queer & Intersectional Collective, and Starr House, to provide period products.
“We’ve tried to identify people that can’t be served delivery to their door. If you’re staying in a shelter or a youth center, you can’t ask someone to just come drop off something for you, but those people still need products,” explained Guinan.
The Period Pantry sends a variety of product options to people in need, giving them the choice of what products they put in or on their body. “It’s something that seems really small, but you shouldn’t have to worry about that,” said Guinan. “You should be able to pick what you want and what you need. We try to make sure there’s always a variety of things that we can offer everybody.”
From April through December 2020, The Period Pantry served 900 people and distributed thousands of pads, tampons, and menstrual cups. In the first two months of 2021, The Period Pantry has already served 765 people and given away over 25,000 period products, quickly dwarfing last year’s product numbers.
The Period Pantry is available to anyone who needs it. For those looking for a little help, you can request assistance here. If you’re interested in making a donation, you can do so here. And finally, if you’d like to organize your own period product drive, you can reach out via email at email@example.com.
“There’s still a stigma about periods. The more we talk about it the easier it gets and the easier it gets for people to ask for help when they need it,” said Guinan.
Let’s all make periods a little easier on our fellow Columbusites, friends.