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Ottawa gives Food Banks Canada $17.9M for pilot to provide period products

Women and Gender Equality and Youth Minister Marci Ien arrives at a Liberal caucus meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. The federal government has tasked Food Banks Canada with handing out free menstrual products to members of diverse low-income communities.Ien announced the pilot program Thursday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

TORONTO — The federal government has tasked Food Banks Canada with handing out free menstrual products to members of marginalized low-income communities. 

Gender Equality Minister Marci Ien announced the $17.9-million pilot project Thursday at the Allan Gardens Food Bank in Toronto.

"This is about making sure that Canadians don't have to choose between buying menstrual products and paying for essentials," Ien said. 

"This is about making sure that no one in this country is held back from going to work or going to school because they feel that they have a need to hide that they have their period."

Period products are basic necessities as essential as toilet paper and soap, she added. 

Food Banks Canada will partner with smaller organizations to provide free menstrual products to what Ien described as "diverse" low-income populations that include Black people, people of colour and Indigenous people, as well as members of the LGBTQ community.

Those organizations' on-the-ground workers have witnessed what's been called "period poverty," Ien said. 

"The demand for food banks continues to increase at an alarming rate across Canada, and as a result, far too many people are being forced to make difficult choice choices, such as choosing between food and menstrual products," said Kirstin Beardsley, CEO of Food Banks Canada.

"The financial strain of menstrual inequity is undeniably cruel, and exacerbates existing cycles of poverty."

Food Banks Canada is also set to partner with groups that are advancing education about menstruation in an effort to destigmatize it. 

The Menstrual Equity project is part of a broader push from the government to reduce the cost of menstruation. 

The feds have already launched a program to provide free menstrual products in First Nations schools on reserves, as well as making sure they're offered at federally regulated workplaces. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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