Free pads and tampons popping up in Guelph library branches, businesses

Holly Mastrogiacomo started Tampon Tuesdays in Guelph two years ago to help provide feminine hygiene products to women in shelters. Now, the initiative has expanded and Mastrogiacomo is distributing pads and tampons to city businesses and library branches.

'It’s like toilet paper. You need it,' says Holly Mastrogiacomo

Holly Mastrogiacomo started Tampon Tuesday in Guelph by offering customers a discount at her consignment store, Smitten Apparel, if they brought in feminine hygiene products on Tuesdays for women in local shelters. She's received so many donations she's been able to expand and offer free tampons and pads in the washrooms of local businesses and library branches. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

No woman should have to choose between groceries and buying tampons or pads, Guelph businesswoman Holly Mastrogiacomo says.

It's why she started Tampon Tuesday two years ago. She had heard a local shelter ask for donations of feminine hygiene products and she thought it would be something simple she could do at her consignment store, Smitten Apparel.

"We had a lot of really great support … and we had all kinds of people from seniors to young families bringing in donations and it just kind of started rolling and it took on a life of itself," Mastrogiacomo said while sitting in the downtown branch of the Guelph Public Library.

She's received so many donations, Mastrogiacomo has been able to expand the project and provide tampons and pads to local businesses.

Second Chance Employment was the first place to start offering free pads and tampons in their washrooms, then Anishnabeg Outreach and all Planet Bean cafes.

This month, Guelph Public Library got on board and now, free pads and tampons are in the women's washrooms in every branch.

A box filled with tampons and pads sits in one of the washrooms at the Guelph Public Library. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Library accessible to all

Karen Cafarella, the community outreach supervisor for Guelph Public Library, said having feminine hygiene products in their washrooms just makes sense.

"In our role as a community hub, we feel that we are a good access point. We're opening and welcoming to all and anybody can walk in and get what they need," she said. "If you know where the washrooms are, you can just pop in and get what you need."

She said the fact there are branches all over the city means they're accessible to many people.

'You need it'

Now, Mastrogiacomo said she'd like to see more businesses offer free pads and tampons in their washrooms. She's also asking the city to designate May 28 as menstrual health day.

"There's been so many great people that I've met along the way and so many people who have come to me and said, 'Hey, you know what? We're doing that now, we're offering it in our washrooms,' and that's what I would like, for it to keep going," she said.

Mastrogiacomo noted a woman can spend between $8 and $15 each month on the products.

"It's about giving dignity. It's really important for women to not have to choose between food and feminine hygiene products. They're really expensive," he said. "It's like toilet paper. You need it. There's no choice there."

A note on the box makes it clear the pads and tampons are free for women to use. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)