The Rhode Island Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) lead an effort, Help a Sister Out Period, that resulted in a donation of 62,000 menstrual products being delivered to the Rhode Island Food Bank.
“These items will be distributed through our network of about 158 member agencies across the state, which includes food pantries, meal sites, shelters and of course women’s shelters,” said Lisa Roth Blackman, Chief Philanthropy Officer at the Rhode Island Food Bank. “Here at the Food Bank, we know that many children and adults lack regular access to healthy, nutritious food. Without those meals they may miss out on many activities that we all take for granted. The same is true of menstrual products. Without them, young girls miss school and women miss work.”
CLUW had the help of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, Teamsters Local 251, NEARI, UFCW, IBEW, the Rhode Island AFL-CIO and others in their efforts.
“We understood that there were women who didn’t go to work because even women who have jobs, who are low wage workers, cannot afford the products they need if it comes upon you suddenly,” said Maureen Martin, President of CLUW and Secretary-Treasurer of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO. “Everywhere we went we talked to people about it and the surprising thing was how little people, women and men, understood that it was even an issue. They didn’t understand the poverty of it.”
“This also brought a number of labor unions together which is very important because we all know that we’re better when we work together,” said Frank Flynn, President of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals.
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“We know that poverty comes in many different forms and sometimes we don’t realize how people are affected by it,” said Kate Brewster, Executive Director of the Jonnycake Center of Peacedale. “For low wage working women and women living in poverty the inability to access menstrual products can marginalize them and put them at risk for preventable health complications. We distribute these products to women through our food pantry and to teens through our Jonny’s locker program which provides high school students with toiletries, snacks and hygiene items that their families may not be able to afford.”
“I would like to ask you to go home or go back to work and start talking about this,” said Martin, closing the short program. “Start talking about this to people who maybe wouldn’t normally talk about this. Talk about having periods, about who’s having them and why this is a problem, why people afford them and why they aren’t accessible to people in public buildings…”
The Rhode Island Community Food Bank distributes food to 53,000 struggling Rhode Islanders each month through a statewide network of 158 member agencies including food pantries, meal sites, shelters, youth programs and senior centers.
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