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Pilot to stock food banks, rec centres with free menstrual products now underway in Hamilton

A one-year pilot project to provide Hamiltonians in need with free menstrual products is finally underway. Alicia Draus / Global News

A one-year pilot project to provide Hamiltonians in need with free menstrual products is finally underway.

Starting Dec. 1, residents will be able to access period products in Hamilton Food Share’s 23 emergency food centres.

Menstrual products will also be available in five city recreation centres — Dalewood Recreation Centre, Dominic Agostino Riverdale Community Centre, Huntington Park Recreation Centre, Normal Pinky Lewis Recreation Centre and Westmount Recreation Centre.

The pilot project was approved by Hamilton city councillors at a price tag of $121,000 in early 2020 but its rollout was delayed because of the pandemic.

Read more: Hamilton’s free menstrual products pilot set to begin once COVID-19 lockdown ends

Joanne Santucci, CEO of Hamilton Food Share, said the pilot is desperately needed to address a basic need for so many people.

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“People are in need of this product, but we just didn’t have it. It just wasn’t there to give. Most of the money was spent on food — that was our priority. But we really understand that basic needs are basic needs and this is a basic need, and it’s also a health issue.”

Of the funding allocated by the city, $91,000 is going toward Hamilton Food Share’s goal of making sure the program can survive beyond the one-year pilot.

Santucci said they plan on looking at sponsorships, fundraising and other methods of making sure it’s sustainable in the long term.

Read more: Ontario partners with Shoppers Drug Mart to offer free menstrual products in schools

“There’s no sense offering this to our community of people who are vulnerable, and then the next time they come, there isn’t enough in the system,” she said.

“We are absolutely committed to sustaining that project long after the funding is gone. We’ll do our own fundraising and we’ll find our own ways to make sure that when people come to the food bank, they just have one less worry.”

Tennier Sanitation, a Hamilton-based janitorial service, has donated the first month of menstrual products to Hamilton Food Share.

City staff will come back with an evaluation of the pilot and its impact in a report to councillors at the emergency and community services committee in late 2022.

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