An Oklahoma City nonprofit works to meet an often-unspoken need: Providing menstrual products to organizations and people in need.
Period OKC began to collect products less than a year ago. During its first nine months of operation, the nonprofit donated over 39,000 items. Those behind the effort said they were taken aback by how many school employees asked for the products.
"And out of all of our 39,000 donations, 14,000 of those came from schools," Period OKC director Linley Faye Smith said.
Period OKC began its mission to help menstruators who deal with period poverty.
"The general rule of thumb is that a house with three menstruators can spend about $20 upwards of $50 a month on products, and again, not covered by SNAP benefits,” Smith said. “These administrators, nurses (and) teachers are buying these products out of pocket. We were able to service 20 schools within the metro area."
Smith said for some, just asking for pads and tampons can be awkward.
"If you're embarrassed talking about your period, you're definitely embarrassed to talk about not being able to afford the product,” Smith said. “It's a hygiene item, as well to keep the public safe too. You shouldn't have to worry about bleeding in public."
People and organizations who need the items must fill out a request form on Period OKC's website.
Positive Tomorrows, a private school for kids with housing insecurity, said lack of access to period products has ripple effects.
"We see kids who may miss school because they don't have shoes and it's the same thing here," Positive Tomorrows president and chief executive officer Susan Agel said.
Menstruators dealt with school absences in their previous schools, before they enrolled in Positive Tomorrows, according to Agel.
"We're able to provide some individual packs for our 5th and 6th grade girls. We have supplies in the bathroom,” Agel said.
Smith said male teachers and coaches make requests for products and stock up, as well. She also encourages schools and workplaces to make products readily available, not just in the women's bathroom.
"Just like they do toilet paper and paper towels because there's definitely going to be someone menstruating at all times," Smith said. “A big tenant of Period OKC is keeping things gender-neutral because a lot of people don't realize that trans men also need these products and nonbinary people also need these products."
To request period products or donate some, click here.