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Period poverty - Suffolk foodbanks supply sanitary products to schools

PUBLISHED: 13:20 18 October 2018 | UPDATED: 14:00 18 October 2018

Alex Mayer MEP spoke to students at Thurston Community College last week about period poverty. From left to right: Miss Myfanwy Cooper, Lara Fordham, Suffolk county councillor Jack Abbott, Evie Harrison, Councillor Helen Armitage and Alex Mayer MEP Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL LABOUR GROUP

Alex Mayer MEP spoke to students at Thurston Community College last week about period poverty. From left to right: Miss Myfanwy Cooper, Lara Fordham, Suffolk county councillor Jack Abbott, Evie Harrison, Councillor Helen Armitage and Alex Mayer MEP Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL LABOUR GROUP

Suffolk County Council Labour Group

Foodbanks in Suffolk have been stepping in to supply tampons to schools, it has revealed, as support is growing to end “period poverty”.

Andrew McFarlane, Mike Smith, Gwen Archer and Hazel Smith at Stowmarket and area foodbank Picture: ARCHANTAndrew McFarlane, Mike Smith, Gwen Archer and Hazel Smith at Stowmarket and area foodbank Picture: ARCHANT

Girls at Thurston Community College spoke last week about the difficulties they have had with periods at school, with accounts of some students skipping class or resorting to using newspapers as they could not afford sanitary products.

The Labour group at Suffolk County Council have put forward a motion to today’s full council meeting calling for £15,000 to fund free tampons and female hygiene products in all local authority schools across the county, as well as urging academy trusts to do the same.

Foodbanks in the county said they receive donations for sanitary products and have been passing them on to schools to ensure they can help those students who need them.

Mike Smith, who runs Stowmarket and area foodbank, said: “Obviously it is a problem. We send out that sort of product, sanitary towels and stuff, with every family parcel and every teenage girl parcel.

Amanda Bloomfield (right), CEO of the Gatehouse charity, which runs a foodbank in Bury St Edmunds. She is pictured with Julia Wakelam at a Gatehouse Christmas day meal at St Benedict's Catholic School in Bury.Amanda Bloomfield (right), CEO of the Gatehouse charity, which runs a foodbank in Bury St Edmunds. She is pictured with Julia Wakelam at a Gatehouse Christmas day meal at St Benedict's Catholic School in Bury.

“If we get a surplus we can go up to the schools and take a bag full and take them up to the Mix [in Stowmarket] and support them. We won’t ever throw them away.”

He added: “I think people are now waking up to the issue. It would be good for it to be sorted at county level.”

Amanda Bloomfield, chief executive of the Gatehouse charity, which runs a foodbank in Bury St Edmunds, said they make sure schools in the Bury area have a supply of sanitary products, adding they had received a large donation from King Edward VI School.

Year 10 students Alice Eley and William Starling collected 250 packs of sanitary products donated by their peers and teachers for Gatehouse.

Ms Bloomfield said: “It’s an issue, and due to the fact we have had a donation from the school we are well stocked with the items and we have worked with schools to ensure they have them.”

Some people are shocked girls in parts of Suffolk cannot afford tampons or sanitary towels, but Ms Bloomfield said there can be great need within affluent areas.

“I think Bury is quite a challenging area to understand the issues because we have got the two sides of the coin here most definitely.

“We have got the very affluent side of Bury and it’s a very pretty town and we get lots of tourists, but we also get pockets of deprivation as well. I can understand people look at it and think ‘really?’”

Figures show one in 10 teenage girls have been unable to afford sanitary products at some point and one in seven has had to ask a friend for tampons or sanitary towels.

Alex Mayer MEP, who met with Thurston Community College students last week about this issue, said: “No child should have to face a monthly nightmare of not having any sanitary products and so being forced to miss school.

“It wouldn’t cost much for Suffolk County Council to provide free menstrual products and it would make the world of difference. Let’s make sure no Suffolk girl misses out on an education because of period poverty.”

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