News Release: End period poverty and the stigma surrounding menstruation

Menstrual products are a necessity, not a luxury. Access to menstrual products and dignity around menstruation – reducing the shame – is a health equity issue.

According to a local survey carried out by It’s Personal Period in Grey Bruce (2021), the survey found:

  • 1 in 2 people surveyed experienced period poverty,
  • 52% of those surveyed struggled to access products,
  • 73% (3 in 4 people) missed work or school due to menstruation, and
  • 40% were not informed of proper menstrual health.

The United Way Bruce Grey is pleased to recognize its partnership with It’s Personal Period, a grassroots committee based in Grey County and Bruce County. It’s Personal Period’s mission is to advance menstrual equity in Bruce Grey by addressing the impact period poverty has on the dignity and health of those who menstruate.

They aim to reduce the stigma and increase awareness about menstrual health by providing education and sustainable menstrual product options to those in need.

They have engaged with the Poverty Task Force’s Food Security Action Group to speak to the need for free menstrual products at community food program locations. You can find menstrual products in libraries and food banks across Bruce Grey.

For more resources, visit www.itspersonalperiod.com/resources.

Ontario Government Budget

In the 2021/2022 Ontario budget, the government made a 3 year commitment to provide 6 million menstrual products per year to school boards. Period Purse estimated that the number of promised pads does not meet the demand. It breaks down to only 10 pads/student/year. (Source: Period Purse, Oct 2021).

Here in Grey Bruce, the allocated amount from the Ontario government does not cover enough to provide free products and dispensing machines for all students in schools. The Poverty Task Force and It’s Personal Period supported the Bruce Grey Catholic School’s Board roll out of its student survey and free period product program The School Board added to the budget from the government to meet the demand of its student population.

The Poverty Task Force is advocating for the Ontario government to mandate free menstrual products in all public school washrooms such as exists in British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

Menstrual Hygiene Day is May 28th, 2023. Consider ways your organization can raise awareness about the challenges regarding access to menstrual products and education about menstruation.

Source: Plan International Canada survey

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 76

Dear Colleagues, 

For those with limited income, for those who menstruate managing periods can often become complicated and expensive. Food Banks Canada reports that on average, people who menstruate spend 3,000 days of their lifetime menstruating. 

Spending money on period products can often mean making tough decisions when it comes to choosing to stay healthy and clean during cycles or using that money for food or transportation. Menstrual equity is critical for women and girls to fully participate in school, work and society. 

  • The Ontario government has launched a new program that will see Shoppers Drug Mart provide 6 million essential hygiene items for free, annually, to school boards in Ontario for the next 3 years. For now, only period pads will be available, though the plan is to eventually include tampons as well. 
  • Its Personal Period started out as a donation drive collecting menstrual products to assist local Grey Bruce youth, to advocate for more products within the school boards and erase the stigma around menstruation.
    • They have launched a new website and Grey Bruce resource map. 
    • Their recent survey in Grey Bruce found 50% of people surveyed who mensturate experience period poverty. 3 out of 4 people surveyed have missed work or school due to menstruation. 
    • Bruce County libraries are now on the map with available products. 
    • SOAHAC has some free reusable feminine hygiene products for clients.  Call 519-376-5508 and ask to speak to one of the Nurses for more information.
    • Most Food Banks offer free feminine hygiene products but only a few advertise that these are available. It might be something to add to your 211 Food Bank posting.

HOUSING SUPPORTS

  • Homelessness Enumeration:  Grey County and Bruce County are working with community partners to conduct a one-day survey for individuals experiencing homelessness. Everyone counts. Partners have been hearing from people who are sleeping on the street, couch surfing, or temporarily housed. 
    • While the survey is a point-in-time count for the day October 18th, partners can still interview people this week that were homeless on that day. It is recognized that across a rural Region it may take time to reach more people at our various hub spots. .For more information contact  josh.gibson@grey.ca or tdickson@brucecounty.on.ca 
  • Home heating: Heating oil prices nationally were reported to be up by 52% on average last week over about the same time last year.
    • It’s illegal to disconnect someone from electricity during winter and the Ontario Energy Board’s expectation is that natural gas companies won’t cut people off either, as both are regulated utilities.
    • The electricity and gas providers fund the Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP), which helps cover people in emergencies with up to $600 towards utility arrears. Contact 211 for intake for the LEAP program.
    • The United Way Utilities Fund helps people with wood, propane or furnace oil to heat their homes. It provided $24,600 in furnace oil grants, $33,750 propane grants and $85,172.69 in wood-fuel grants from July 2020 to June 2021. 

FOOD SECURITY SUPPORTS

  • The Bruce Grey Food Data Collection Hub continues to provide real time data on community food programs. The Hub is a finalist in the Pillar Awards
  • Community Meal Programs:  135,891 meals provided and demand has continued to grow through all stages of the Pandemic.  
    • OSHaRE – 77,830; Gilles Hache’s program – 12,742; HCSS – 7,802; Canadian Mental Health Association – 6,701; Chesley Baptist Church Hot Meal Program – 6,189.  The contributions of 5 smaller meal programs have also been very appreciated by their communities.
  • Food Rescue: from January to August 2021, 47,500 kg of food has been received, sorted, weighed, and shared.  OSHaRE, Beaver Valley Outreach, Southeast Grey Community Health Centre, and the Walkerton Food Bank have all reported food rescues in 2021.
  • Food Banks: from January to October 2021, 113,670 kg of food has been distributed to more than 11,200 households by 18 food banks.  On average, food bank users are 31% children, 58% adults and 11% seniors.  
    • The Salvation Army South Bruce Peninsula -1,278; Walkerton Food Bank – 1003; Kincardine Ministerial Food Bank -781; and the Markdale and District Food Bank -582.  Space precludes listing all of the food banks, but even the smallest is making a big difference.
    • The Owen Sound Salvation Army (source: Owen Sound Sun Times) reported it has distributed 3,240 food bundles; 
  • Community Gardens Network has contributed more than 15,000 kg of fresh produce with 56% of the food grown having been donated to Food Banks and Meal Programs.
  • Volunteers have donated more than 27,400 hours to their various community food organizations by the end of September. OSHaRE volunteer data is expected to be an additional 900 to 1,000 hours in September. 
  • Second Harvest: released new research into Canada’s Invisible Food Network. They found there are 4 times more charitable food providers than grocery stores in Canada. This is a massive but unconnected patchwork of services trying to support 6.7 million Canadians while they themselves are still reeling from the impact of the pandemic on the charitable sector. Read the full report here: https://buff.ly/3iIqLZ8

INCOME & EMPLOYMENT SECURITY

  • The Ontario government has announced it is set to bring in the province’s strictest-ever rules for companies that recruit temporary workers, including a system for shutting down temp agencies that exploit staff.
    • More than 2,000 temporary help agencies in Ontario place hundreds of thousands of workers in seasonal and short-term employment each year, in sectors ranging from tourism to office work to agriculture. 
    • Inspectors found $3.3 million in unpaid wages.  Some temp firms — including some who recruit temporary foreign workers — have been caught failing to comply with Ontario employment law on paying workers minimum wage, overtime and vacation pay.
  • Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) which supports low-income seniors has been impacted by its interaction with federal pandemic benefits. 
    • Nearly 1 in 3 seniors who work received some amount of CERB.
    • The GIS is an important tool to reduce poverty for seniors, the recipients of which are 70% women. 
    • A loss of GIS disproportionately impacts First Nations, Inuit, Métis and racialized seniors who access GIS at more than double the rate of their white counterparts.  
    • Low-income seniors who rely on GIS do not qualify for social assistance and have no other sources of income to which they can turn.
  • The Poverty Task Force has signed an open letter written by the Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) calling on the Federal Government to fix the problem of GIS benefit reduction or elimination which many low income seniors are currently experiencing due to their receipt of CERB in 2020. Partners can endorse the open letter at this link by Thursday October 21: https://forms.gle/ef41yZhobf8Cf1B39 
  • Grey County Children’s Services: Staffing challenges are limiting licensed child care capacity In Grey County resulting in an increasing waitlist. Over 800 kids are on the waitlist in September and centres are running at 70% capacity. 

MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORTS 

  • CMHA Grey Bruce Mental Health and Addiction Services has introduced a single phone number to access all local programs and services across the organization. Call 519-371-3642 or toll free 1-888-451-CMHA (2642).
  • Mobile Health Outreach: the first mobile outreach at the Owen’s Farmer’s market saw 15 agencies come together to meet with approximately 80 participants. Direct health, housing and addictions support was provided as well as new intakes for programs. Food/drinks was provided by OSHaRE for 79 people and 24 emergency food hampers by the Salvation Army Owen Sound.

FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES

  • Na-Mi-Quai-Ni-Mak Community Support Fund: is available to support Indigenous communities, Survivor Organizations, registered non-profits, and others with small grants for memorial activities. Communities and Residential School Survivors know what activities best support healing, memorials and remembrance in their communities. The program will support communities in pursuing the activities they feel are best.

INFORMATION SUPPORT

Stay well, Jill