Chrissiey Jackson

A team of medical students, pediatric residents, and Flint Southwestern High School staff have been working together to deliver over 12,000-period supplies to Flint’s Southwestern High School. Under the direction of Mona Hanna-Attisha, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine, this is a project of the MSU-Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative.

March 8, 2021

The goal of the Period Poverty project is to reduce school absences because of a lack of period supplies and the high cost of obtaining them. An often-ignored public health crisis, nearly one in five girls miss school for lack of period supplies.

“As we finally begin to welcome kids back into the classroom, we are thrilled to provide our students with this additional resource to keep them in class,” said Flint Community School’s nurse Eileen Tomasi. She continued, “Our kids already have so many stresses that make it hard to be in school and to learn; providing period supplies will hopefully be one less worry.”

Period poverty is a term that refers to inaccessibility to menstrual sanitary products due to financial barriers. It is estimated that the total cost of feminine health products over a lifetime is about $18,000. In addition, these items are often subject to sales tax despite being a medical necessity, and government programs for low-income families like WIC and SNAP do not cover the high expense of feminine hygiene products.

“Low-income families are challenged to choose between food, bills, and health products,” shared Dr. Fatima Hussain, former pediatric resident at Hurley Children's Hospital and primary organizer of the project. “With the lack of attention and provisions for menstrual management, many girls are unnecessarily missing school.”

Flint students were sent a voluntary survey asking about period poverty and how it may impact them at school. Whether or not they opt into the survey and while supplies last, students can pick up free period supplies at the Southwestern High School food pickups on Wednesdays from 10 am to 1 pm or from the school nurse office at the high school. Period supplies will be available starting Wednesday, March 10.

Lately, this matter has come to the attention of many activists and policymakers. Efforts are pushing toward passing laws making these products tax exempted. However, in 37 states, these products are still taxed, including Michigan state which applies a 6% tax on feminine products. In February, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced a plan to eliminate the ‘tampon tax’ as part of her 2022 budget plan. This past week, New Zealand announced free period products to all students to reduce period poverty.

After delivering thousands of period supplies to Southwestern High School, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine medical student Chrissiey Jackson remarked, “I grew up in a family that struggled financially, and I look forward to policies that remove the financial burden of these medically necessary items. Until then and as students are coming back to in-person school, I’m so excited to support our Flint students.”  

The American Academy of Pediatrics Community Access to Child Health (CATCH) is funding the project. The CATCH Program funds projects where pediatricians and pediatric residents help build broad-based community partnerships to address unmet child health needs with innovative strategies.