City of Gainesville plans to provide free sanitary products in public restrooms

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The Gainesville City Commission on Thursday voted unanimously to move forward with a plan to provide free sanitary products in public restrooms across Gainesville.

Morgan Spicer and Riley Moon presented research on the topic during the commission’s General Policy Committee meeting, proposing that the city institutes a pilot program for the free distribution of these products.

Spicer, the interim policy oversight administrator, presented research conducted by Annamarie Elliot, a policy research fellow.

Sixty-four percent of low-income participants in a 2019 study could not afford menstrual products, Spicer said. Thirty-seven percent of students surveyed by the Women’s Health Center said they had missed school because they could not access these products, and thus did not feel comfortable attending school.

There are two topics this policy would address — poverty and public health.

The average menstruating person spends $300 on menstrual products per year, said Moon, a member of Planned Parenthood. This equates to an average of $17,000 spent on menstrual products over the course of a lifetime.

This is also a public health issue, as sanitary products can help to stop the transmission of bloodborne pathogens, Spicer said.

Commissioner Reina Saco made it clear this is not a “women’s fad” issue.

“This is an issue for people who menstruate,” Saco said.

Menstrual products would be provided in both men’s and women’s restrooms, as menstruation is not limited to one gender.

“We don’t ask people to bring their own soap to the bathroom. We don’t ask people to bring their own toilet paper to the bathroom. I don’t know why we ask people to bring their own menstrual products,” Commissioner Harvey Ward said.

The city plans to implement this into park bathrooms across the city. Such places include Depot Park, Tom Petty Park, Possum Creek Park, Westside Park and Porter Community Center.

“We can treat it as a pilot,” Ward said, “but I would prefer to treat it as any other restroom supply.”

About Lindsay Schindler

Lindsay is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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