Pandemic Perpetuates 'Period Poverty' In St. Louis Region
Last year, a report in the medical journal Obstetrics and Gynecology found that nearly two-thirds of low-income women in St. Louis can’t always afford pads or tampons — often resorting to rags, diapers or paper towels during their menstrual cycle. Laurel Segrist, program manager for the St. Louis Alliance for Period Supplies, said that such “period poverty” is an even bigger issue now because of the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The alliance is an initiative of the St. Louis Area Diaper Bank. The program first began distributing “period kits” of pads, tampons and panty liners in March after a year of raising funds and collaborating with other organizations.
Segrist joined host Sarah Fenske on Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air to discuss how the pandemic has shifted distribution methods. Initially, the program prepared kits for four pilot partners, aiming to have them distribute the kits to clients, students and patients.
But when the coronavirus made in-person meetings an impossibility, Segrist and her colleagues reached out to area organizations that offered drive-by distribution of food and other supplies. For the last 10 weeks, St. Louis Alliance for Period Supplies have given out kits at six sites — a total of 116, 314 pads and tampons.
“We knew that people were going to be giving out supplies in this drive-by model, and when you are in crisis and you don’t have a lot of resources, the last thing you want to do is drive to three different places to get your basic needs met,” Segrist said.
Segrist added that an outpouring of local support has helped the organization offer more pads than they originally considered. Up until two weeks ago, the alliance was able to serve people entirely with donated supplies.
That has helped them meet the increase in demand from people who have suffered income loss because of the pandemic, Segrist said.
“We started seeing people show up at our distribution sites asking for help that have probably never had to ask for help before in their life,” she said.
Segrist also touched on the organization's legislative efforts to lower the tax levied on feminine hygiene products to no greater than the tax levied on food.
“Unfortunately, when it comes to things like diapers, pads and tampons, that hasn’t been the case,” she explained. “Even though you can’t get through life without using them, there’s still a tax on them and that tax is actually fairly high. So a lot of our work is pushed towards [lowering] that tax with the end goal of abolishing it completely.
“We want to make sure that tampons and pads are looked at in the same light as food.”
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Joshua Phelps. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.
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