Period poverty is an issue that millions of people across the world combat on a daily basis. Despite menstruation being a natural process of the human body, product costs and accessibility continue to prevent people from obtaining the products they need. The Dot Org is focused in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw county, allowing us to make a direct impact on the issues of period poverty within our local community. Much of our work is on a smaller scale, but we are fortunate to be located in a largely progressive area were many officials, such as the Ann Arbor City Council, want to make macroscopic changes to tackle period poverty. However, this does not mean that we cannot look to other cities to learn about their innovations and ideas regarding these same issues. Observing the work of others can help us create dynamic solutions that address the persisting gaps of our communities.
While on Google news a few days ago, a particular headline about a “Grab-N-Flow” shed caught my attention. The article, which came from a Philadelphia-based news outlet*, detailed how Shelley Aragoncillo, a Penn Medicine employee, arranged for a shed to be constantly stocked with free period products in her city. Shelley either bought products or collected donations to maintain the supply. She also ensured that her shed, called “Grab-N-Flow,” was also open 24/7 and allowed recipients to obtain their products with complete anonymity. Since she launched “Grab-N-Flow,” Shelley described the expansion of the shed to a journalist for Today**. In this interview, she talks about how the shed now includes pregnancy tests and various items for new moms and infants.
Shelley’s idea for this shed is simple, yet that is where its beauty lies. Making large changes in cities and states requires a lot of lobbying, resources, and time. These types of movements may have the most long-term impact, but creating and executing ideas like the “Grab-N-Flow” shed addresses immediate needs within a community. As legislators and advocates work at the government level, laypeople can also contribute to reducing period poverty; contributions do not have to be extravagant to be helpful or meaningful. Working at a local level allows community-specific projects to come to fruition which may, in turn, build support for the larger goals of a group of people or an organization.
We have seen several strides in combating period poverty over the past few years. Menstrual product taxes are being removed in various states, reusable period products are becoming more mainstream and accessible, and several organizations have banded together to reach the common goal of ending period poverty. The “Grab-N-Flow” shed highlights a more nuanced aspect of these accomplishments, which involves regular people recognizing gaps in their communities and working to fulfill them. Shelley’s work sets a great example for the rest of the nation, and even our own organization about the importance of similar local efforts. We hope to see “Grab-N-Flow” sheds make an appearance across the nation and maybe even in our own community!