Community Health

A former newspaper dispenser has been transformed into a period pantry offering free access to menstrual products for those in need. 

The new Jilly Pads period panty is located at Change Today, Change Tomorrow on South 15th Street. 

Fifteen-year-old Jillian Ward-Butler created Jilly Pads when she was 9 years old. She said she noticed early on that accessing period products wasn’t easy for everyone, particularly people experiencing houselessness. 

“I noticed that you have to use paper towels and toilet paper and that stuff just basically disintegrates,” Ward-Butler said. “I thought that it would’ve been better if it was more easy [to] access.”

Ward-Butler said that making period products free and accessible just makes sense.

She started the organization as a project to help fill the gaps she saw in period product accessibility by handing out menstrual products at Grace Hope Presbyterian Church in the Smoketown Jackson neighborhood. 

“I would go there every Thursday after school, like after homeschool, and we go and give pads and tampons and Diva cups and period panties there,” Ward-Butler said. “And it just kept getting bigger and bigger.”

Ward-Butler went on to set up her first period pantry at the church. Inside each pantry, there are pads and tampons of all sizes, menstrual cups, period panties, incontinence products and black underwear.

Butler-Ward aims to make the period pantries have as many options as possible for those with different product preferences. 

Breya Jones | wfpl.org

The pantries are stocked with various period and incontinence products to meet different needs and preferences.

Beyond the period pantries and hand-out events, she also offers home delivery of period products.

“Someone DMs me on Instagram and is like, ‘Hey Jill, I need some pads and tampons right now, can you deliver them to me? I don’t really have a way to go out and get them,’” Butler-Ward said. 

When she receives those messages, Ward-Butler said she responds by taking products directly to the requester.

Ward-Butler hopes to partner with more organizations to set up period pantries like the one at Change Today, Change Tomorrow. 

Change Today, Change Tomorrow started its partnership with Jilly Pads in 2020. The organization aims to address and reduce food and public health access disparities that affect Black people in particular.

Before hosting a period pantry, Change Today, Change Tomorrow supported Jilly Pads by donating products and providing a space for storage. 

“We love working with Jilly Pads,” the organization’s executive director  Taylor Ryan said in a news release. “We are very lucky to have and serve alongside Gen Z community leaders.”

The barriers marginalized people face in accessing menstrual products have been a growing topic of conversation in the United States in recent years as high prices and shortages have left some struggling to find period products.

In Louisville, Metro Council member Paula McCraney, a Democrat representing District 7, spearheaded legislation calling on the state to eliminate sales taxes on diapers and menstrual products. Council members unanimously approved the proposals in July..

“You’d be surprised at the number of women who have to go a longer period of time with the same tampon or the same napkin,” McCraney told WFPL News.

 

The issue of menstrual product access or lack thereof doesn’t affect everyone equally. Period poverty affects people of color and those with lower incomes. The lack of income leaves some people having to decide between buying essentials like food and period products.

In Kentucky, 16.6% of residents live below the federal poverty line, which is above the national average. 

According to data from  U.S. Census Data analyzed by the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy in 2020, women are 3% more likely than men to live in poverty. Black residents are around 11% more likely to live in poverty than their white counterparts. 

At the state level, Democratic Representative Attica Scott introduced similar bills in 2019, but they were never taken up by the General Assembly.

These policies could potentially help thousands of Kentuckians who are facing period poverty.

Butler-Ward hopes that Jilly Pads can alleviate some of the stress associated with period poverty and relieve some of the worry about access.

Breya Jones is the Breaking News Reporter for WFPL.