Free. began in 2021 as a hyperlocal program to provide period products in communities along the South Shore. We quickly received requests from all over the state, with a high volume coming from our schools. Nationally, 1 in 4 students report missing school due to period poverty (Thinx & PERIOD) and Free. noticed the same trend here in MA. Benefits do not cover period supplies and our most at risk students are often left with inadequate or unhealthy alternatives to manage their period needs. To prepare for the upcoming school year, Free. and Dr. Ann Linehan conducted a statewide assessment of product availability and student needs with school nurses. Here are some of our findings:
- 92% of responding schools are unable to meet the period product needs of students.
- Over 300 schools all across MA have asked Free. to provide products to help students remain in the classroom.
- Over 5,000 students in just 360 schools were identified by school nurses as at risk of not having any period care at all.
- Roughly 30% of schools have products available in restrooms where students need them and the majority of schools expect students to rely on word of mouth to know where to find necessary period products.
Free. took these findings to area Senator Patrick O'Connor and he quickly created a budget amendment for $500,000 to help Free. meet the need for MA students. Thank you to Senator Patrick O'Connor for recognizing the need for funding, to fellow Budget Committee members Senator Michael Rodrigues, Senator Cindy Friedman, Representative Aaron Michlewitz, Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante, Representative Todd Smola for their approval and to Governor Maura Healey for the final budget signature ensuring period poverty does not stop an education in Massachusetts.
Free. is a volunteer-led and staffed program providing period product access in schools, shelters, and community resource centers in MA. They have provided over 640,000 products in just 2 years.
On behalf of the Free. team,
Founder and Director
St. John the Evangelist, Hingham MA
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