Menstrual products aren’t covered by programs like WIC or food stamps, so this new company donates a box for every one you buy.
There are plenty of important organizations out there doing great work to give women in need access to food, shelter, job training, and more. But there aren’t many that help them out with another necessity: Menstrual products.
For the millions of U.S. women living in poverty, it’s often tough enough to pull together the funds to pay the bills or buy groceries. Menstrual products aren’t covered by the WIC program or food stamps, so when money is tight, there isn’t always enough left over for a $7 box of tampons or pads. When that happens, women often resort to using rags, socks, or even plastic bags.
It’s upsetting—and even shocking—that every woman in America doesn’t have access to these essentials. That’s why Aunt Flow, the buy-one, give-one subscription box for tampons and pads, is working to make a difference. For $13 a month, subscribers get a box of 18 100% cotton tampons or pads (you can pick all one or the other, as well as the number of light, regular, or super tampons you want) delivered straight to their door. Each time they get a box, another one is donated to a woman in need.
The model itself isn’t new (does Tom’s ring a bell?). But the focus on women’s health is. Founder Claire Coder had long been aware that some women had trouble getting tampons or pads each month. Her mother, an art therapist, met many of them as part of her work.
So when Coder didn’t have any tampons on hand while her period started unexpectedly during a weekend-long entrepreneurial event, she saw an opportunity: Launch a subscription program that meant you never had to worry about another awkward moment when you looked under the bathroom sink and realized you forgot to restock—and help other women avoid the indignity of going without.
Coder purposefully chose the name Aunt Flow because it’s funny and lighthearted. “We realized there’s this silent barrier. Even the women who are living with this issue aren’t talking about it. They aren’t asking for help,” says Lindsey McEntee, who goes by the title Chief Ovulation Officer (COO). “And even though tampons and pads are at the top of food shelter lists, people think it’s icky or it doesn’t occur to them to donate.”
How exactly does it work? Each quarter, Aunt Flow partners with five nonprofit organizations that help women in need. When a subscriber signs up with Aunt Flow, they customize their subscription box and choose which organization they want their donation to go to. (You can also opt to make a one-time or monthly donation without subscribing.)
At the end of each quarter, Aunt Flow brings the donated tampons and pads directly to the organizations—many of which are currently based in the Columbus, Ohio area near the company’s headquarters. “We choose organizations based on their location, and how much we’ll be able to provide meaningful help. For organizations that don’t get chosen, we offer our products at cost,” McEntee says.
Launched in October 2016, Aunt Flow is preparing to deliver its first batch of donated products—more than 22,000 tampons and pads—next month. “We haven’t had the chance to put them in the hands of people yet, and that’s something I’m really looking forward to,” says McEntee.
In the future, Coder and McEntee hope to expand their product line to include menstrual cups and pads in multiple sizes. And they want to take Aunt Flow’s donation program nationwide. “There are 16 million women living in poverty that may not have access to tampons and pads here at home,” says McEntee. “We want to change that.”
Photographs courtesy of Aunt Flow
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