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Free menstrual products to be offered in select Toronto food banks as part of new federal program

A new pilot program funded by the federal government will offer free menstrual products to low-income and marginalized communities as the cost of living continues to climb and more people across Canada are forced to make difficult choices between food and other essentials.

Outside the Allan Gardens Food Bank in Toronto Thursday, people lined-up for hours to take home a few days worth of food. There’s fresh produce, milk and chicken, but menstrual products are not easy to find.

“I find the prices in the store ridiculously high for something we can’t control," Sherry Prevost, who is raising two children, told CTV News Toronto. “I truly believe it should be included in our medical costs.”

The food bank’s executive director, Meryl Wharton, says women who use the service are “desperately in need of menstrual products.”

‘Period poverty’ can result in girls and women’ being absent from school or employment, Wharton said. She recalled one case in which a mother had to cut menstrual pads in half to conserve products for her three daughters.

The Allen Gardens Food Bank can be seen on Sept. 21, 2023. (CTV News Toronto)

“Period poverty isn’t some kind of abstract concept. It has a direct link to the wallets of women and girls,” Marci Ien, Canada’s Minister of Women, Gender Equity and Youth, said at the food bank.

Ien announced the new investment – $17.9 million in funding for Food Banks Canada – while at the Toronto location Thursday. She said the government studied the issue and spoke with 200 non-profits, including shelters, friendship centres, and community organizations.

The lack of products disproportionately affects Indigenous and radicalized communities, youth and single mothers, Ien explained.

Darleny Guerrero, a single mother of 7-year-old twin girls, at the Allan Gardens Food Bank Thursday told CTV News Toronto the pilot program would be a great help.

“That one is great. It will help us. That would be perfect,” Guerrero said.

Others are only calling the pilot a good first step, saying they would prefer the money to go directly into the hands of women so they can choose the products best for them.

Food Banks Canada told CTV News Toronto it's in the middle of selecting suppliers to distribute the menstrual products.

It’s hoping the products will be available for clients at food banks and community organizations by mid-December. Top Stories

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