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B.C. aims to end 'period poverty,' expand access to menstrual products

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The British Columbia government says it is providing $750,000 to expand access to free menstrual products for people who need them and to help the United Way establish a task force to consider how to end "period poverty." THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mike Stewart

BURNABY — The British Columbia government says it is providing $750,000 to expand access to free menstrual products for people who need them and to help the United Way establish a task force to consider how to end “period poverty.”

Nicholas Simons, the minister of social development and poverty reduction, says half of the people who menstruate in B.C. have struggled to buy the products they need at some point in their lives.

He told a Friday news conference that no one should have to stay home from work or school or choose between hygiene and essentials like food.

Asked about earlier calls for the province to make menstrual products available at locations such as schools, workplaces, pharmacies and government offices, Simons says there’s a big difference between having the products available at home and having to access them in public spaces.

He says previous research has shown that limited access to menstrual products means people are likely to stay at home, and the task force will look at where the most effective locations might be to make products available.

Neal Adolph with the United Way says half of the funding that’s intended to last for two years will go to the task force and the other half will support the organization’s work to increase access to menstrual products across B.C.

The period poverty task force is due to provide a final report in March 2024. The task force will be chaired by Nikki Hill, who has previously worked on a provincially funded research project with the United Way looking at the impacts a lack of access to menstrual products can have on a person’s life.

“Before we started some of this work, we had no idea what a common problem it was for people in our communities,” Hill told the news conference.

The task force will look at creating equity for those people, she says. — The Canadian Press