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Free feminine hygiene products not having expected impact on students

Student Government (SG) is working on ways to better market the free feminine hygiene products located in The Wellness Center, as well as improving their accessibility. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

Since fall 2017, the USF Wellness Center, located in the Marshall Student Center (MSC), has been providing free feminine hygiene products for all students following a popular campaign promise. However, the initiative is not making the impact it was expected to.

Prior to fall 2017, Student Government (SG) made an agreement with USF Wellness to provide free feminine hygiene products within their facilities. After securing the partnership, SG presented the new initiative to the executive branch, who later accepted and requested funding for the new the proposal.

In order to supply the most beneficial products for users, Student Body President Moneer Kheireddine, asked Alexandria Moorehead, SG’s chief of staff, to attain the best commodities within the given budget.  

“Moneer came to me and he told me, ‘OK, we have this much of a budget and I want you to find products for women, like what would you think would be the best thing,’” Moorehead said. “So, I went onto Amazon because you can find anything from Amazon, and I just started looking for bulk products, like things that I would want to use. So, I knew they weren’t going to be a cheap material, it wasn’t going to be something that other women wouldn’t want to use.” 

According to Kheireddine, SG wanted to offer a product that suited students’ needs.

“They’re high quality products as well, so it’s not the cheap stuff that you would just get at the dollar store. It’s high quality, and we wanted to make sure that the quality that we’re giving our students is at the forefront of it,” Kheireddine said. “We (SG) didn’t just want to offer something just to offer it. We are offering you a good, suitable product to ensure that you’re taken care of.

“So, hopefully — since we do have plenty of the products still available, and we have enough ideally for the next two to three years — what we’re trying to do is not just keep the product here in Wellness, but also expand it to be offered at the Fit, over at the Village and also have it available at the Health Clinic right here on campus.” 

Once the feminine hygiene products were obtained by SG, they were placed into the Wellness Center.

Although, since the inclusion of free feminine hygiene products in the Wellness Center has been implemented, students remain unaware of the new initiative.  

Kheireddine said he realizes the program is still in it’s beginning stages and is working with other SG members to increase awareness of the products being offered and to expand the products accessibility to other locations on campus.

“Students have not been as informed even though we have promoted it a decent bit,” Kheireddine said. “Everytime you walk into the Wellness Center, they’re right there and there’s a big sign that says that they are available, but we are trying to expand the program the best that we can so there is a bigger impact.”

Although awareness of these free products is low, some students think this is a positive thing to have on campus.  

Nya White, a freshman majoring in business administration, said there has been a lack of attention drawn to the topic of free feminine hygiene products being freely provided in the Wellness Center.  

“I was not aware, and I do not think that other students on campus were aware of this,” White said. “I do think (students will take advantage of the free products) considering mainly they’re free and college students want free stuff so that they don’t have to spend their hard earned money. Being a woman is hard and sometimes we don’t have all the resources that we need to get the stuff that we need, so it being free helps.” 

Likewise, Makenna Lutz, a freshman majoring in advertising, said she and her peers have been uninformed of the free product placement as well.  

“I had no clue until you told me about it the other day, and I don’t know of anyone else that knows that this is a thing either,” Lutz said. “I definitely think it’s good, especially for people of lower socioeconomic status or people who don’t have a lot of money to be spending on feminine hygiene products because there are other things that are important to get as well, like food and things, so it’s nice having one less thing to worry about.” 

Kheireddine said this initiative is far from finished, however. In the coming years, he hopes to see it expand beyond the Wellness Center.

Moorehead is also encouraging this initiative to expand further than the Fit and the Health Clinic.  She hopes that in the future, free feminine hygiene products will be offered within residence halls on campus.

“Depending on the next term if they decide to continue this initiative — which I would love to see them do – I would love to expand it into the housing areas,” Moorehead said. “So, maybe like at the front desks of the two main housing areas. So, Holly J, I think, and JP, so that if a student needs them they are accessible in places that students are.”

On average, sanitary pads and tampons cost upwards of $3 per package. According to Kheireddine, their free inclusion in the Wellness Center is not only convenient, but also cost effective for students.

“Recognizing you never know when anything is going to happen, you never know if your period is going to start when you come to campus, and you can’t really predict that,” Kheireddine said. “So, having a resource on campus that if something does happen, you have something for free that you can just come to and utilize.”

According to Moorehead, this initiative signals the start of a more important conversation surrounding women’s health.

“I think it gives way for a bigger conversation of the access that women have to feminine hygiene products,” Moorehead said. “This isn’t something that women chose to have, and sometimes we don’t even realize that it’s going to come on the day that it does, and if you don’t live on campus and you happen to get your period, where are you going to get a tampon or a pad? I think it offers the opportunity to kind of broaden our ideas of how these things work and it opens a conversation that people should be having about it.”