Free menstrual products now available at food banks, rec centres, as part of Hamilton pilot project

A year-long pilot project, beginning Wednesday, will fund tampons and pads at 23 food banks and hot meal programs as well as restrooms at five recreation centres.

'Our objective is to remove the barriers to affordability and access:' Food Share CEO

A year-long pilot project will provide menstrual products at food banks and recreation centres across Hamilton starting Wednesday. (Mike Stewart/Associated Press)

Free menstrual products are now available at Food Share and recreation centres across Hamilton.

A year-long pilot project, beginning Wednesday, will fund tampons and pads at 23 food banks and hot meal programs throughout the city.

It comes after lengthy debate by city councillors and is meant to explore ways to ensure access to the products and address "period poverty," according to a media release.

"While households are struggling to put food on the table, affording other necessities, like menstrual products may be out of reach for many," said Hamilton Food Share CEO Joanne Santucci.

"We are committed to ensuring this product is readily available at local food banks for all who will need it. Our objective is to remove the barriers to affordability and access for people living in poverty."

The city provided $121,000 in funding for the project. Of that, $91,000 will be used by Food Share, which is working to build partnerships to provide sustainable access even after the pilot ends, adds the release.

Hamilton's Emergency Food Network sees nearly 22,000 visits every month, said Food Share.

That number represents 12,613 individuals in more than 5,000 households.

The system expects to distribute menstrual products to about 3,000 people each month and has a target of distributing 35,000 items in its first year.

On Wednesday Hamilton-based company Tennier Sanitation donated a month's worth of products, according to Food Share.

The organization shared a photo of Santucci meeting Tennier president Darren Slemko to received the first delivery at their Stoney Creek warehouse.

Hamilton Food Share CEO Joanne Santucci (right) meet with Darren Slemko from Tennier Sanitation on Wednesday to receive a months-worth of menstrual products. (Supplied by Hamilton Food Share)

"No one should have to worry about whether they have access to menstrual care products," said Slemko. 

"With our contribution and a matching donation from Hospeco's Period Partner program, we're hoping this donation will give food bank users some peace of mind."

Tampons and pads have also been available in baskets and bins in women's and universal washrooms at five city recreation centres since September. 

This chart shows the restrooms that will include free menstrual products over the next year. (City of Hamilton)

Mayor Fred Eisenberger said the city is pleased to support the initiative.

"By removing barriers and creating easier access to essential products, community members have the option to access resources at variety food banks and at a time that suits them," he said.

A report on the program, including its distribution and costs, is expected to be provided to the emergency and community services committee late next year.


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