Written by Maya Geving, photo by Maya Geving

Picture this, you’re a broke college student scanning the shelves at Target for a package of tampons. The cheapest ones you can find are eight dollars. Between tuition, rent, utilities, groceries, and other expenses, you wonder how you’ll be able to afford it. 

This scenario describes the reality for many people in the United States. Period poverty is often overlooked due to its taboo nature. However, the inaccessibility of period products remains a large problem for many people including college students. Luckily for St. Cloud State, there is a PERIOD Chapter that is determined to solve this issue. 

The PERIOD Chapter at St. Cloud State was founded in 2021. Chapter President  Kara Cowell and Vice President Lydia Krueger saw a cause and took action by working with the Women’s Center to create the chapter. It focuses on three main topics: education, advocacy, and service. 

What is Period Poverty?

“Period Poverty” refers to a lack of access to period products such as pads and tampons.  Period products are not covered by food stamps or WIC. They are also subject to sales tax and are not uniformly available. 

According to statistics on the period chapters website “period.org”, one in four students find it challenging to afford period products.​ Students of color and students with lower incomes have an even harder time affording period products. The statistics also show that fifty-one percent of students have worn period products for longer than is recommended. 

The non-accessibility of period products presents a lot of challenges. 

According to Cowell, “Students have had a need for free menstrual products for a long time. Many students won’t go to class or will miss tests because they don’t have the period products they need.” 

This need for period products among students inspired the Aunt Flow pilot program. The PERIOD chapter worked together with the women’s center and created dispensers with free period products that were put in all the bathrooms at Atwood Memorial Center. 

Inclusivity matters. 

Cowell and Krueger stress the importance of inclusivity and how it plays a huge role in the chapter. That’s why they avoid female-oriented words and put dispensers in male bathrooms as well. 

“Not all people who menstruate are women, and not all women menstruate,” said Cowell. 

A driving force in creating social change. 

The PERIOD chapter has also made great strides toward menstrual equity at St. Cloud State and in the greater Minnesota area. For example, they have hosted period drives to collect period products to put in all the residence halls. They are also working to put free period products in all the bathrooms at St. Cloud State by the end of October. More than one hundred students have signed up to be involved in the chapter so far. 

However, most notably, Cowell got the opportunity to speak in front of state legislators while the Minnesota Menstrual Equity Bill was being proposed. This included two separate bills, one for making period products free in all K-12 schools and another for providing funding to colleges for free period products for students. Both of these bills were passed by the Minnesota House of Representatives and Senate. 

Looking for new students to get involved.

All the current leaders in the PERIOD Chapter will be graduating next spring. They are hoping that the chapter will carry on at St. Cloud State and that new members will take over these positions. 

According to Krueger, “We are tabling in Atwood, campaigning, postering, and posting on social media to attract new members.” 

Cowell urges students who are interested to be a part of the chapter.

“There are lots of great student organizations that might be comfortable, but the PERIOD Chapter pushes you out of your comfort zone and gives you opportunities to create social change.”

The PERIOD Chapter is hosting its next event on Wednesday, Oct. 11 from 5.30 p.m. to 7 p.m. It is called “Menstrual Health Matters” and will be located in the Voyager South room in Atwood Memorial Center. 

To get involved, students can come to the next event, DM scsu.period on Instagram, or email kara.cowell@go.stcloudstate.edu