Monday, October 13, 2008


I'm tossing around an idea in my head about organizing some sort of effort to raise awareness about and donations of feminine hygeine products (what an awkward phrase) to the foodbank. This came up on my blog and I recalled meeting women in Kentucky who used real rags because they couldn't afford pads or tampons. I started telling other women in my church partners about this problem and the donations came flowing in. I think it really touched a place in the hearts of other women.

I realize there are a lot of issues around health and safety issues about using these products, as well as the stigma of menstruation in our society. But there's clearly a difference between choosing to purchase a cup or organic reusable cloths and being forced to use actual rags with no other choices.

I buy organic tampons and pads, but every Sunday there are tons of coupons for mainstream products in the paper so it wouldn't really be inconvenient to purchase a supply and donate them to a food pantry, a shelter, etc. Right?

I had a dialogue with the folks from the food bank and learned that this is not an uncommon experience here in Pittsburgh and that donations are far and few between. So what could this look like? A blogging event to raise awareness? A live event at a woman owned establishment asking people to bring tampons and pads as the price of admission? Something with the dual purpose of raising the donated items and promoting a healthy attitude toward menstruation? Sending flyers to women's groups at local faith communities asking them to include this need in their ongoing efforts? I don't know.

Perhaps you have an idea?


  1. i'm not sure how to do it but it's a great idea and well worth doing.

  2. I think that's a really good idea.

    Usually, there are additional food drives in October and November. Maybe buy some extra boxes of tampons/pads and toss them in the collection box?

  3. "I realize there are a lot of issues around health and safety issues about using these products..."

    Can you explain just a little? For those of us playing catch up?

    And if you're doing live events, why not try male-owned businesses as well? I'm sure some would be willing.

  4. well toxic shock is one, but some people think that the chemicals in the fibers are bad.

    i'm not sure one way or the other so i can't really comment on that but i do think it's a need that i haddened even thought about as far as food bank issues til now.

    my thanks to sue for opening my eyes to it.

  5. Bram,

    Here's a link to a fact sheet at NOW that outlines some of the concerns, mostly around the use of synthetic fibers and exposure to toxic chemicals in "conventionally grown cotton."

    Then there issues on the environmental impact of plastic applicators, the packaging, the promulgation of menstruation as something to hide and ignore, etc.

    I buy organic tampons b/c I just can't wrap my mind around inserting a potentially carcinogenic material into my vagina. But not everyone agrees with that approach and it certainly is more expensive.

    As for the women owned businesses, I personally believe we should support them whenever possible. Nothing anti-male owned business about it, but just a show of solidarity. It is a bit of an overstatement that we are going to start having live events. I just proposed one event. We don't really do live events.

  6. Hi Sue,

    I was involved in something somewhat related to this recently. I began a Cause on Facebook to support a feminine hygiene product project in India. It was called Pennies for Periods and supported this project:

    Here was my schpeal:
    "Pennies for Periods supports a project that is being implemented in rural India. The project leaders work with local women to start small social enterprises based on gathering, sterlizing, preparing, and distributing cloth to be used for feminine hygiene purposes. In rural India, women who are too poor to buy feminine hygiene products use old pieces of cloth-- and reuse them every month (sometimes sharing with their female family members). The result is that they are at risk of life-threatening infections and infertility. Some women even die of tetanus from this practice, because they use cloth from old clothing that has metal snaps or hooks, which become rusty with time."

    I also illustrated a "cute" (and clean) tampon that I wanted to sell as a virtual gift on Facebook as a fundraiser for this project. (What college-aged kid wouldn't think it was hilarious to send tampons to their friends on FB?) Unfortunately, the process of getting to sell virtual gifts on FB is a bit complicated. More so, because I am not a 501(c)3 unto myself. In the end, my little fundraiser was not very successful. I still believe it could be a great and fun viral experiment (like FreeRice, for instance)... but I didn't have the time/means to make it happen.

    Just as an FYI, there are a few organizations in the developing world that work on addressing this issue. Not enough, but there are some. Googling it may find you some extra info.