For students who suddenly find themselves in need of a tampon or menstrual pad, Salt Lake Community College offers menstrual products to students free of charge at several locations across the college’s campuses.
SLCC’s Gender and Sexuality Student Resource Center, Center for Health and Counseling, and each of the college’s Bruin Pantry locations provide menstrual products to whomever is in need.
“Free menstrual products should be a college-wide initiative and I wish we were able to provide products to every person who menstruates,” said Whitney Ockey, health promotion manager for the Center for Health and Counseling. “It’s a basic need and cost should not be a barrier.”
Ockey said the center has been providing free menstrual products at the Taylorsville Redwood, South City and Jordan campuses since February 2022. Each center offers pads, tampons and liners, all free of charge.
According to Ockey, the menstrual products are supplied through school funding or donations, and they are always free to students.
Diya Shah, the coordinator of the Bruin Pantries, said getting menstrual products from on-campus locations is a great alternative to the quarter machines in women’s restrooms since they will not cost you anything and are readily available to those who might not feel comfortable using a women’s restroom, such as transgender and nonbinary students.
Some locations also offer silicone cups as a sustainable option. Menstrual cups can be washed and reused for up to 10 years, depending on the materials used. A Huffington Post investigation estimates that the average woman uses as many as 9,000 menstrual products over their lifetime, and adoption of menstrual cups could reduce that number dramatically.
Last year, George Mason University and the University of Pennsylvania conducted a national survey and found that 10% of female college students are unable to afford period products each month, a situation known as period poverty.
Period poverty became more common in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a study by NeilsenIQ, tampon prices increased by 10.8% and pad prices by 8.9% from July 2021 to July 2022. In March of this year, the national shortage of period products was the most critical in Utah and California. Utah’s On-Shelf-Availability (OSA) rate decreased by 93.6%.
Shah found that pads, however, tend to run out faster than tampons. There has been interest in menstrual cups and discs, something Shah said is being considered.
Menstrual discs are insertable period products that use gravity to sit at the base of the cervix and provide up to 12 hours of protection, explains Dr. Jessica Shepherd, obstetrician-gynecologist and chief medical officer at Verywell Health.
Providing these products for free through the Bruin Pantry means more accessibility, Shah said.
“With the bathrooms being gendered, I suppose not every bathroom would have access to quarter machines,” Shah said. “Period products should be accessible to all regardless of their gender identity, economic status, racial background and so on.”
Menstrual cups and discs are more difficult to supply for free because they are initially more expensive, but the Center for Health and Counseling sometimes receives cups to provide through partnerships such as CampusCup, a project run through the menstrual cup company AllMatters, which focused on “making periods on campuses more sustainable across the U.S.”