Passaic County Education Associations addresses period poverty

1 in 4 students impacted by period poverty

By Kerrian Palmieri, NJEA Women in Education Committee

As an educational community, we provide as many basic necessities to anyone who is in need as we possibly can. Free lunch programs, food pantries, scholarships, tutoring programs, clothing, and school supplies are just a few of the necessities that school communities may provide.

As educators and ESP members, we go the extra step to find resources to help make sure that every student can have the bare necessities they need to be successful both in and out of the classroom. The word “necessities” is recurring as those are items that are essential for a person to function, and thus can focus on learning. So, the question that comes to mind is: Why should period products be any different? The simple answer… they shouldn’t! 

One in four students in the United States has struggled to afford menstrual products. While the ability to access menstrual products primarily affects menstruating students in low-income communities, this study by PERIOD and Thinx organizations, found that students across all demographic groups reported a lack of access to menstrual products. Menstrual (or period) equity is universal access to safe menstrual products, education, sanitation, and a shame-free social attitude towards periods.

This is where the members of Passaic County Education Associations (PCEA) rolled up their sleeves and started gathering products to help those experiencing period poverty, or the lack of access to products for menstruation. Educators and ESP members across Passaic County answered the call from the NJEA Women in Education Committee to donate products to help alleviate the stress and embarrassment that is associated with period poverty.

PCEA didn’t stop there, they put a spotlight on this issue during their March Legislative Dinner to make sure our legislators kept Bills S-1221 and A-1349 in the forefront of their minds when they headed to Trenton. The results were inspirational, with well over three carloads of products being put in comfort closets and pantries for immediate access by those in need.

PCEA product drive

Looking for information or resources? Here’s what WIE Committee members suggest:

  • May 28 is Menstrual Health Day and could be used as a pivotal point in an equity campaign timeline.
  • The organization PERIOD has started a petition to the demand free menstrual products in NJ schools.
  • Get involved with your local or county Legislative Action Team to write postcards to legislators, and revise, rewrite your own version, and sign the petition.
  • Resources for how and why to advocate for students.
  • New Jersey’s fifth grade curriculum on menstrual health has instructional materials, starter kits and the information pamphlets come in multiple languages. ESL teachers, for example, can tap into this resource when working with students new to public schools in higher grades.
  • Learn about the impact of period poverty nationwide from the PERIOD and Thinx 2021 report.
  • First period FAQ handout.

Members of the NJEA Women in Education Committee have been at the forefront of pushing for period equity, both in the school house and the state house. Committee members Martha Arrizón and Joyce Farr have also been running successful menstrual equity campaigns in their counties—Salem and Gloucester—and are involved in lobbying legislators at the state level. For more information or ideas, please reach out to NJEA staff contact Meredith Barnes to connect with members of the committee who can help.

Kerrian Palmieri, a member from Wayne Education Association, is Passaic County’s representative on the NJEA Women in Education Committee and coordinator of the product drive held in Passaic County.