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New app aims to help Waterloo Region residents find free menstrual products

A new app developed in Waterloo is helping people across Waterloo Region find free menstrual products.

It's called Period Pin, and its creators hope it will bridge the gap between local efforts to supply these products and the people who are looking for them.

"One of the things I realized is there might be a little bit of a disconnect between all the amazing work those groups and organizations are doing and the menstruators they serve, or are aiming to reach," said Period Pin co-founder Karen Farley.

Farley, along with co-founder Patrick Bosworth, created it while completing their master's degree at the University of Waterloo.

For now, the map pinpoints spots in Waterloo Region and Guelph, but the pair hopes to keep growing it.

"Anyone who wishes to partner with our map can appear and the map allows people with smartphones to locate those locations and find free period products that they need," said Bosworth.

They are getting an $8,000 boost from the Region of Waterloo to help expand the app. It's part of a $2.2 million investment into forty community organizations through the region's 2023 Upstream Fund and Community Capacity Building Fund.

Period Pin has already brought on some new team members to support partnership outreach and social media.

Accessing the app at the palm of a hand is convenient, but not everyone has a smartphone or laptop so they have thought of some alternatives.

"So we're looking at creating paper versions of the map that can be put up in the community and perhaps some stickers to build awareness that period products are available in partner locations," Farley said.

RECOGNIZING THE IMPACT

The Cambridge Food Bank is one place where people who menstruate can get their hands on free period products.

But the food bank's development manager, Sarah Tooze, says just because they have some menstrual products one day, doesn't mean they'll have some the next.

They rely on donations for these products, so having enough supply is half the battle.

"The other half of the battle is [knowing] where to find these products," said Tooze.

So even though the food bank in Cambridge won't be found on the Period Pin map because of supply uncertainty, she recognizes the important gap this app fills.

"It will allow us to refer folks to other sites when there's times that we don't have period products," said Tooze.

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