SAN DIEGO – County leaders on Tuesday announced that they are expanding a program that gives residents access to free menstrual products due to high demand, officials said.

Free 4 Menstrual Equity was launched in May 2021 and since that time, more than 140,000 tampons and pads have been given to those in need. As part of the year-long pilot program to assess need, 24 product dispensers were installed in San Diego County-owned facilities.

“The Free4ME pilot program showed that there is a critical need for free menstrual hygiene products, and we are excited to continue expanding this program to all County facilities,” said Kelly Motadel, M.D., M.P.H., County Child Health Officer. “No one who needs these products should have to go without them or risk infection because they are using the products longer than recommended.”

Since food stamps and WIC do not cover menstrual products, leaders say the need to protect and assist those in need is imperative as using products for longer than recommended can lead to infections and toxic shock syndrome. The group most disproportionately affected by so-called “period poverty:” school-aged children.

County officials say additional dispensers will now be added to San Diego County buildings, but did not disclose which locations would be receiving the dispensers.

The Free4ME initiative was launched in partnership with Youth Will and Planned Parenthood.