National Period Day rally

Al Macker, 5, and his mother, Natalia Macker, wave at people passing by Saturday afternoon during their rally for National Period Day on Town Square. “You know why we’re wearing red? Because it’s National Period Day,” Al excitedly yelled across the square. The rally was part of the Period Project, a collaboration by St. John’s Episcopal Church, St. John’s Hospital Foundation and the Jackson Cupboard to increase access to menstruation products for girls and women.

Melinda Binks and Sarah Ferris have worked on providing access to menstruation products in the Himalayas. But both were surprised to find the same problem facing girls and women in Teton County.

“I couldn’t believe it was going on here,” Binks said.

Binks and Ferris joined a small group of mostly women on the southwest corner of Town Square on Saturday to hand out information about “period poverty” and where people could access products.

The educational rally, timed to coincide with National Period Day, was born from the organizers of the Period Project, a collaboration started by St. John’s Episcopal Church, St. John’s Hospital Foundation and the Jackson Cupboard.

The three groups joined forces last spring to purchase and distribute tampons and pads to schools and businesses throughout town. The Tampon Team — the moniker given to the group of volunteers that stock the baskets — have expanded to include Arapahoe Middle School in Fremont County and the Community Resource Center of Teton Valley in Driggs, Idaho.

“If it’s happening here, it’s happening across the state,” said Katie Holmes, who held a sign that read: “We are not ovaryacting. End the stigma. (Period).”

The demonstration brought out about a dozen supporters — most of them dressed in red for National Period Day — to distribute flyers about period poverty in the community and how to help.

“It’s an actionable item,” Holmes said.

The project grew out of an Always advertisement that described how many girls miss school because of period poverty, a term used to describe lack of access to feminine hygiene products. Margaret Hutton, at the time the director of faith, care and action at St. John’s Episcopal Church, did a little digging and found Teton County girls and women have the same struggles.

Through St. John’s church, Hutton partnered with the hospital foundation and Jackson Cupboard to pool funds to set up and stock pads and tampons in women’s bathrooms throughout the community. In the first four months, 5,200 products were distributed at 10 locations.

On Saturday, the team assembled to distribute flyers and educate passersby. In their red jackets, their signs read: “A period should not cost a girl her education” and “End the stigma (period).”

Most walking by were as surprised as the organizers that some residents in Jackson Hole experience period poverty. Pedestrians were also surprised to find that feminine hygiene products are taxed. In fact, tampons and pads are taxed as “luxury items” or non-essential.

“There’s nothing luxurious about it,” said 43-year-old Teri Wilske, a social worker visiting Jackson from Pocatello, Idaho. “This is biological.”

The Period Project has placed baskets of products in 15 locations in Teton County, two in Fremont County and one in Driggs, Idaho. Find out more at TinyURL.com/jhperiodproject.

Read the full story on the origins of the Period Project and the Tampon Team in the 2019 issue of Jackson Hole Woman, produced by the Jackson Hole News&Guide and due on stands Wednesday.

Contact Melissa Cassutt at 732-7076 or valley@jhnewsandguide.com.

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