You may have heard of food pantries. But what about a pantry dedicated to feminine hygiene products?

“Period Poverty is prevalent in everywhere in the world. It's really, it's really something that people, I think, kind of sweep under the rug," said Claire Jennings, a New York State Public Health Corps fellow.

The phrase “period poverty” is used when people don’t have adequate access to period products.

“If someone is affected by period poverty, they might not attend work or school, so it really affects their livelihood," Jennings said.

That’s why she and Brynn Watkins created the period pantry.

What You Need To Know

  • According to the National Organization of Women, customers spend an average of $20 on period products per cycle

  • Two New York State Public Health Corps fellows created "period pantries" in underserved communities, giving low-income and homeless women access to free menstrual products

  • The pantries house a variety of options, from tampons and pads to diva cups

They’re recent college graduates and New York State Public Health Corps fellows who started the Schenectady Menstrual Health Coalition as a way to help low-income and homeless women.

“Definitely, for individuals who are already experiencing, like, homelessness and they're already in a position where they, you know, kind of feel down on their luck," Watkins said, "having to go and ask for something that is stigmatized is hard."

The period pantry is a free pantry with a variety of menstrual products, including tampons, pads and diva cups.

According to the National Organization of Women, on average, customers will spend about $20 on period products per cycle, and if there’s a family of multiple women, that can add up.

“I know a lot of people who experience period poverty have to choose between, you know, getting food for them and their families, or buying a box of tampons. And that should never be a choice that someone has to make," Watkins said.

The pantry is located at Bethesda House in Schenectady, and they recently finished the second one, which is located at the Schenectady Inner City Ministry.

“I think seeing things like free food fridges and free period pantries shows that there's obviously a great need for basic things like food and menstrual hygiene products, and our, you know, our government, our cities, our countries are not doing enough to make sure that these basic necessities are getting in the hands of the people who need them the most," Watkins said.

Watkins and Jennings look at the poverty rates in different zip codes to help them determine where to put the pantries. They also talk with local organizations about what the need is.

“Specifically, in the zip code we're in, which is 12307, there is a 28.5% poverty rate for people. So, it's really high, and that includes period poverty among all other things like food insecurity, homelessness, things like that," Jennings said.

Eventually, the women want to tackle period stigma where it starts, expanding their reach to educational programs at schools and teaching young girls that their bodies are nothing to be ashamed of.