Periods. They have been a monthly occurrence during the reproductive lives of most people with ovaries since the beginning of time, and yet talking about them still seems taboo and embarrassing. But not talking about them doesn’t stop them from occurring, and lack of these conversations along with insufficient availability of period hygiene products could be hurting our students.
“We all know that life is full of unexpected events, some positive, some not-so-much. For our female students here (in Orange County Schools), not expecting your menstrual cycle to start when you’re at school can be in the not-so-much category. The embarrassment and humiliation of that experience and the stress of trying to find the supplies they need is anxiety no young woman needs, especially in that (school) environment,” says Trish LaCharite, who along with Sandy Parks created the Lake Nona Snap Bag Project. Trish had seen a social media post where a teacher had filled small zipper bags with feminine hygiene products and placed those bags in a basket near her classroom door so her students could simply stop by if they had an emergency while at school and needed supplies. “They could just take a bag and go. No need to ask, no embarrassment and no humiliation, it was discreet. I simply loved this idea and felt it was a great way to empower our young women to take control of their situation. So, I embarked on getting this into our more needy schools in Orange County,” LaCharite explained.
What Trish did not know at the time is just how important having access to these supplies really is. Advocates say the issue goes beyond stigma, that lack of access can affect the quality of education as well. A recent study found that 4 in 5 menstruating teens said they have either missed class time, or know someone who missed class time, because they did not have access to period products.
Currently, 17 states in the United States have legislation requiring public schools to have FREE access to period products, Florida is not one. 66% of Florida’s public-school children qualify for free or reduced-price school lunch; yet State and Federal programs, such as SNAP (food stamps) and WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children), don’t cover menstrual supplies, making having access to these products even more important in the school systems. Two different bills have been introduced into Florida legislation that would require our schools to allocate money for period products in the same manner they do soap and toilet paper; but neither to date has passed. That is why community outreach and projects like Trish and Sandy’s are so important.
Knowing what a difference they could make, Trish and Sandy, both avid sewers, quickly drew up a pattern to create their own version of the bags they had seen in the video but a more economical option with a snap. Together with a group of fellow sewers (Diana Nelkin, Phyllis Tanner and Kathy Krieger), they got to work cutting out fabric they all had laying around from previous projects and sewing them all together. And so, the Lake Nona Snap Bag Project had begun. But what good was the bag without the products?
Each bag is filled with two maxi pads, two tampons, two pantiliners and two cleansing wipes … enough supplies to get a student through the school day. They originally set a goal to make 1,000 bags and then reached out to local friends, neighbors and even did a drive at Club Pilates Lake Nona to collect donations to make it happen. But word got out, and the demand from the schools came rolling in. Since August 2022, the Lake Nona Snap Bag Project has distributed 2,365 bags to 23 different elementary, middle and high schools around Orange County. The supplies they dropped off at the beginning of the year are now gone, and those schools as well as new schools are begging for more snap bags!
“Having snap bags at East River High School is such an amazing blessing. Thanks to the generous donation, we can provide much-needed feminine hygiene products to our students in a dignified and discreet way. We are empowering our young women and making it easier for ALL our girls to have access. It truly makes a difference,” stated Becky Watson, principal of East River High School.And now you can make a difference, too. The Lake Nona Snap Bag Project has started a GoFundMe page where you can donate to help keep the work they are doing going! It costs approximately $1.50 to make and fill each bag. Even a small donation can make a difference. To donate and learn more about the Lake Nona Snap Bag Project, go to: https://gofund.me/bdd6fd97 and join their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/365029395600168.